Monday, March 09, 2009

My World: Vietnam War Memorial, Washington, D.C.

When you first approach Washington, D.C. from Virginia, from across the Potomac river, your eyes cannot but marvel at the monuments in your line of sight - the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the Kennedy Center. Monuments you may have never seen before but are likely instantly familiar to you.

Tucked away in one corner of the Mall, just beyond the Lincoln Memorial, just below your line of sight, so un-ostentatious that you will miss it if you are not looking for it, is the Vietnam War Memorial.

Vietnam Memorial

It is one of the more popular tourist attractions in Washington, D.C. In fact it is the hordes of people that first give you an inkling that there is something worth looking at in that part of the Mall.

For many of the people milling around the monument, however, this is a pilgrimage, not a "must-see" stop on a tour.

On any given day, you will find children, wives, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, pencil and paper in hand, walking along the wall, squinting, trying to find that one name they've come from all corners of the country looking for. They also come with old black and white photographs, year books, flowers, war medals, anything that once belonged to a loved one whose name has now been etched onto that wall.

The Washington Monument reflected in the Wall

They make etchings of their own. They slide their fingers along the names, the feeling at the tips of their fingers more concrete, perhaps, than anything they've been able to recall in a long time. They take photographs. They bow their heads and lean against the cold of the granite. They stand and stare. Lost, I imagine, in the memories of a time long gone.

To check out more MyWorld posts, visit That's My World.

Related post: My essay on Washington, D.C., Power Point.


Louise said...

I really like your commentary with this. I've never been there but have seen film off it many times. You described it in a personal way, nothing like I have ever heard or seen before.

Guy D said...

Great post, I would really love to visit that memorial one day, thanks for sharing this.

Have a great week!
Regina In Pictures

Sylvia K said...

Sujatha, thank you for posting this! And thank you for -- as Louise said --doing it in such a personal way. The way people visit the monument, the little things that they do, speaks mountains about what a heartbreaking time it was in the history of this country. The pain for many has never gone away or even lessened over the years. Beautiful post, beautiful photos. Thank you!

ninja said...

First time I read about a place I've actually been to on My World. Also drove from Virginia. But we were lucky enough to see all the sites almost without any other people as it was pouring down with rain all day.

Nino's Mum said...

'They slide their fingers along the names, the feeling at the tips of their fingers more concrete, perhaps, than anything they've been able to recall in a long time.'
They must make this compulsory reading for politicians.
Such a tender description, Suj.

Indrani said...

So beautifully described, Sujatha!

Tharini said...

Wow. In the meager time that we were there 2 years back, I do not remember seeing people pay homage in this way. This was a new light shed.

Carver said...

That is such a powerful monument and you photographed and wrote about it so well.

Maria said...

Thank you for your visit on my blog and your very nice comments! I appreciate that very much!
And I am happy that you led me to your interesting blog! Your My World post is great! I like your description of the sad atmosphere when you watched people paying a visit to the Vietnam memorial and searching for the names of their beloved dead. And I also liked the post where you were tagged about your first child :))) Great, too!
I hope to meet you again in blogworld, on your blog and maybe also in Vienna :)
Have a nice week!

Sands said...

I've been to this place and seen it first hand. Nice perspective! Love strolling around that area in DC.

Lilli & Nevada said...

I have never been there but you give it a wonderful perspective of the place thanks for sharing

The Good Life in Virginia said...

we were there back in 2000 and we did run our fingers along the names...some we knew.
i think the memorial is memorable in its simplistic yet flowing design if that makes any sense. it seems to go on forever much like war...
thanks for posting this for my world this week.