On the first day of Youth Tour, I was nervous. I didn’t know what to expect. A whole week with over 100 strangers? Let’s just say, I had my doubts.
Our first stop was the Flight 93 Memorial. There was a stone out in the field marking where the plane crashed. Inside the museum, the memorial had air traffic control communications and recorded phone calls of passengers on the plane to their families. Listening to the recordings evoked a sense a sadness and brought the experience to life.
The next morning, we explored the battlefields of Gettysburg. It was overwhelming to think about the number of lives lost on the very fields that I walked through that day. Later, we experienced downtown Gettysburg, where we wore authentic clothes of the time period, providing a trip back in history.
When we arrived in D.C., we stopped at the Martin Luther King Jr., FDR and Jefferson memorials. We also watched the sun set on the Potomac River.
The next morning, I was in awe to see inside the home of our first president, George Washington, at Mount Vernon. There were acres of land, and this farm girl was happy to see sheep and cattle grazing. We were able to stand on Washington’s porch overlooking the Potomac River. I can only imagine what he thought when he stood on that very porch.
During our Potomac cruise later that night, I was able to dance with new friends from across the country, including Maryland, Louisiana, Arizona, New Mexico, Virginia and Alabama, to name a few.
The Youth Rally allowed us to meet fellow delegates from across the U.S. The rally also explained the purpose of the trip and the opportunities it can bring. It was at the rally that I began to swap state pins with others. I ended up with 20 pins from states as far as Texas and Hawaii and as close as Ohio. After the rally, we walked to the White House, where we observed President Trump getting into his car surrounded by Secret Service officers.
Tuesday was a modern look at D.C. First it was off to the Newseum, then the U.S. Capitol for a tour. We walked the same halls that presidents walk, and saw the rotunda, which is breathtaking. After lunch, we met with Indiana legislators, including Rep. Jim Banks. It was awesome to be able to talk to someone in politics and hear his opinion.
On our last day, we got up early and went to our first stop: The Pentagon. The 9/11 memorial there is uniquely laid out: every name is etched in stone by birth year and the direction of each memorial unit bench denotes whether the person was on the plane or in the Pentagon. It was a touching experience.
Then we went to Arlington National Cemetery and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The Holocaust museum stuck out to me the most, because all of the pictures and historical items made you feel like you were there. Picture after picture of different people, each face has a story trapped inside.
When we arrived back in Indiana the next morning, I wasn’t nervous like before.
I was taking one more picture, getting one more hug and sharing one more laugh.
I am not going to lie, I had second thoughts about this trip, because I didn’t really know anyone going. But I am glad I went. I have made so many memories and new friends, friends that I know will have my back for a lifetime.