Washington D.C. 2023

Day 1

Aaaannndd we’re off! We have to say first that this year’s group of kids was much quieter on the bus ride to the airport than last year’s group. Is it because they’re generally better behaved? Or is it because they stayed up far too late last night to have any energy left for our early morning departure? Only time will tell. Either way, our ears are thankful.


Departing from WNS, we had about two and a half hours before departing from the West Coast for our nation’s capital. While the volume level in the bus remained reasonable, murmurs of excitement could be heard. Mr Brannan wondered if the kids were excited about the amazing history they would soon get to see. Ms Reimann wondered if the kids were excited about the possibility of staying in a hotel room with their friends. The truth was revealed in the form of a question:


“We’re early, so we’re definitely going to have time to buy snacks at the airport, right?”


Of course, after years of teaching, the chaperones all knew that there are no certainties on field trips. “We’ll see.”


Upon arriving at LAX, our bus hit a wall of traffic. It was almost as if the cars there were trying to make up for the lack of congestion elsewhere on the roads. At a snail’s pace, we crawled to our terminal. The only benefit to this situation was watching the masterful maneuvering skills of Ricky and Orlando, as they weaved the buses through the traffic, seemingly creating space for themselves out of nowhere.


“Okay, off the bus. Line up with your bag.”


“Will there still be time to buy snacks?”


“We’ll see.”


As the check-in process dragged on, the kids’ excitement of getting to start spending their DC cash allowance turned to nervousness. All-in-all, however, we got through the process with relatively few hitches. Sure, Lily tried to put her bag on the conveyor belt without a luggage tag, and for a moment it appeared there wasn’t a ticket reserved for Mr Brannan to get on the plane (Does this mean I can go home, sleep, and then get on a later flight?), but these catastrophes were avoided and we headed to security where the only hitch was Ms Reimann’s carryon being flagged for having an excessive amount of OTC and prescription medicines. 


As her bag was being searched and she explained the nature of and reason for its contents, the kids lined up across from a Hudson News so Mr Brannan, Mr Young, Mr Shipley, and Ms Youngblood could make sure everyone was accounted for. For the kids, this was torture.


“Why can’t we go in there? It’s just right there.”


Did we need to keep the kids waiting off to the side for as long as we did? No. Did we? You betcha. And then, we made them walk past the Hudson News without letting them go in!


“There’s not enough time to get snacks anymore, is there?”


“We’ll see.”


Once we got to the gate, however, Ms Reimann had the pleasure of letting the kids know they could run off to spend their 🤔hard earned 🤔cash for the next fifteen minutes, and they obeyed her more closely than at any other point this year, dutifully going to the nearby gift shops, the bookstores, and the fast food restaurants to spend, spend, spend! There’s a rumor the Fed will be meeting while we’re in DC to discuss the effect frivolous spending by adolescents is having on inflation. We’ll keep you apprised of their findings.


As we boarded the plane, the kids received more good news:  there were TVs. Yes! But the headphone socket is an aux input. No! But they’re passing out headphones that work. Yay!


As we neared the end of the flight, I (Ms Reimann) was approached by a flight attendant. “Are you in charge of this student group?”


At this, my heart sank a little, as good news rarely follows this question. However, the flight attendant went on to rave about how well behaved our students had been throughout the flight, how polite and pleasant to have on board. They even repeated this as we were exiting the plane! This was praise that we as chaperones greatly appreciated, and we must share the credit with all of you, their parents. ❤️


As we arrived at baggage claim, there was much excitement to help grab all of our bags off the carousel. Charis and Agustya’s hands shot right up in the air and took charge along with Mr. Young in collecting the bags. After 20 minutes of collecting the bags one was missing . . . Senya’s. The carousel kept spinning but Senya’s bag was nowhere to be found. We then heard that there was a jam in baggage carousel 2. Our minds went to the darkest places. Senya’s bag is stuck and will not be able to be secured for hours. We then had all the students go to the bus while Mr. Young and Senya waited for the bag. As all the students disappeared out of the terminal, low and behold, Senya’s bag was sitting right where all the bags were left after being collected.


Once out of the terminal, we hopped on the bus and headed to our hotel. A heated debate on whether the different Sour Patch colors were actually different flavors ensued and a poll was taken on who brought shower shoes to fight “the fungi on the shower floor” (8 out of the 50, if you were wondering). Everyone remained cordial, but we were a bus divided.


At the hotel, a hearty bbq dinner was served and we met our Close Up guides for the week before hopping back on the bus again to head to the Marine Corps War Memorial. The Marine Corps War Memorial is based on the iconic, Pulitzer Prize winning photograph by Joe Rosenthal of marines raising a US flag over Iwo Jima. The image is so widespread and recognizable that almost every student was aware of it to some degree or another when shown a picture of it prior to the DC trip. 


Even though they recognized it, however, they didn’t all know its significance. As the students walked around the memorial, taking in the sheer size of it and the expressions on the faces of the sculpted soldiers, you could see connections forming and synapses firing behind their eyes. Like medieval pilgrims staring up at the vaulted ceiling of a cathedral or a magnificent shrine after a long journey, the sensorial effect heightened their understanding of the bravery and the incredible sacrifices of so many that inspired the memorial’s construction. Sometimes, you just . . . have to be there.


Speaking of being there, Allison’s aunt and uncle were waiting for us at the Marine Corps War Memorial. This was a surprise to us and Allison, particularly when Allison’s uncle saw her and shouted out, “meatball!” Unfortunately for Allison, this nickname she likely had carefully kept from us will now be used by every chaperone for the rest of the trip.


We’re hopeful that the kids overcome the temptation to stay up late (and the feeling that it’s three hours earlier than the clock suggests) and get a good night’s sleep. Tomorrow we tour a number of memorials and spend a chunk of our afternoon at the African American Museum of History and Culture. We’ll catch up with you all tomorrow!


Your 8th grade chaperones