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After driving one hour from Baltimore, we (my sisters Betty and Emily, Betty’s two daughters, Emily’s twin boys, Vincent, and me) arrived at Union Station. The Union Station feels like an international airport. It’s got lines of shops, travelers with their luggages, and walls lined with screens that show arrival and departure times. Busy travelers thread through each other, and intermingled them are tourists or out-of-towners with slower pace and leisure attires. The dome ceiling is so high that I wonder if a bird fly in to the station by accident, she may likely not notice that she is trapped.
After eating a simple lunch at the station, we set off to walk down to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, which just opens this year and was not far from Washington Monument. We walked down Louisiana Ave NW, turned left, then on to Madison Dr NW. As we walked, we saw United State Capital, which dome was undergoing restoration. The walk to reach the museum was a two-miles walk with partial shade. It was hot but not too grilling.
Outside of the National Museum of American History was a long line, but line moved rather quickly. Each visitor needs to go through inspection and all drinks except unopened bottle water are to be tossed before entering. The first and the most memorable exhibit that we’ve seen at the museum is the original flag that inspired the Star Spangled Banner’s author, Francis Scott Key. During the War of 1812, a war fought between US and UK, this flag flew over Fort McHenry Harbor in Baltimore. See this flag inspires Francis to write the poem “Defense of Fort McHenry”, which, ironically, was set to the tune of a British song “To Anacreon in Heaven” and later became the national anthem.
The actual flag is on display and is measured at 30 by 42 feet. It was the largest flag flown in 1812. There is a “No Photography” sign outside of the exhibit (I’ve grabbed the image below from google). I’ve seen the same warning sigh outside of Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the San Diego Natural History Museum. There is something deeply moving about seeing the actual flag. The flag -its sheer size, its history, and the faded red, white and blue-and the Star Spangled Banner played in the background, welled up the patriotic emotion in me, as well as many others who walked through the exhibit with glitter in their eyes. America is a beautiful country that many who are born into it may not realize. The more you know and learn about its short but dramatic history, you fall in love with it again. Yes, it has its flaws; and past failures yes, it has its problems and challenges; yes, is has its foes in this ever-hostile global environment. But it is still a country full of hope, like none other country. It is still a courageous nation who will fight against injustice even when no one will. It is still a country whose citizen will stand up and put their hand on their heart when the Star Spangled Banner plays at the ball game. Seeing people automatically stand still and do that, even when holding a cup of beer and a bag of peanut, always fills me with pride for this country which is not shortage of: hope, courage, and honor.