BHS students visit the nation’s capitol

Noah Aberegg, Staff Reporter

While many students dreaded Tuesday, November 22, the final day before Thanksgiving break, social studies teacher Mrs. Christine Morris and a group of her students have been waiting for this day for weeks: their trip to the nation’s capitol.

Boarding the bus at 4:40 a.m., long before the sun had risen, over fifty students prepared for an eighteen-hour trip to D.C. and sightseeing throughout the city. 

“Waking up that early was worth it. It was so much fun,” junior Madison Ripka said.

Following a four-hour bus ride, the students unloaded at the Lincoln Memorial where they took pictures with the memorial and at the Reflecting Pool before venturing to the Vietnam Memorial Wall and the World War II Memorial. On their walk, they also saw the White House and the Washington Memorial. 

“It was shocking to see how many brave soldiers died in that [Vietnam] war. I appreciate their service and everything they did for this country,” junior Josie Underwood said.

After the monuments, they had a choice to go to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History or the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. Within a little over two hours, the students got to experience the nearly 50 exhibits in the American History Museum and 22 in the Natural History Museum. 

Within the American History Museum, students viewed exhibits featuring the Greensboro Lunch Counter, dresses of the First Ladies of the United States, and the original American Flag that hung over Fort McHenry during the War of 1812, inspiring Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner. 

“There was a Radium Girls exhibit which I really enjoyed because I was recently in the play based on the actual events of the Radium Girls, and it was very cool to connect that part of my life to something real,” junior Kate Harman said.

In the Natural History Museum, students experienced a 52-foot-long model of a mega-toothed shark, an exhibit about mummies and Ancient Egypt, and an 11-ton African Elephant model. 

“One of my favorite exhibits was the ocean exhibit because it showed all of the different ways the ocean and the animals evolved,” sophomore Ava McNeal said. 

After the Smithsonian museums, the students traveled to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, where they took a self-guided tour through the main Holocaust exhibit featuring historical artifacts, video footage, and personal stories. 

“The most shocking part of the Holocaust museum for me was probably the room with all the pictures of people who lived in one town that was taken over by the Nazis. One moment they were happy and living their lives, the next they were being taken away to concentration camps or being killed,” Josie said.

One of the last displays in the museum was a quote that stuck with many of the students. The quote is also displayed on a wall in the classroom of teacher Mr. Edward Fitzgerald:

“First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out – because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew. Then they came for me – and there was no one left to speak for me.” (Martin Niemoller).

Students also got to experience the interactive exhibit, Remember the Children: Daniel’s Story, which was presented through a child’s perspective. They also viewed the “One Thousand and Seventy-eight Blue Skies” exhibit, which features photographs of the sky from each of the 1,078 Nazi concentration camps and killing centers established throughout Europe during the Holocaust.

The final stop on their Washington D.C. journey was the Arlington National Cemetery. The students visited former president John F. Kennedy’s gravesite and the Eternal Flame on the anniversary of his assassination. They also traveled across the cemetery to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where they witnessed the Changing of the Guard ceremony.

“I thought the Changing of the Guard ceremony was very interesting. It showed me how serious and how cautious the military is with protecting things it values. The actions the soldiers took were precise and without error,” Josie said.

Then, after a nine-hour day in the heart of D.C., the students boarded the bus and departed back for Bellefonte High School. 

“My biggest take away was that even though things from our history seem distant from our lives now, at least one piece of it connects with everyone, and it’s really cool to see how it connects in your life,” Kate said.