Last year, my family and I traveled to Washington, DC for Spring Break. If you’re an American, and you’ve never been there before, get there as quickly as you can. There are items from the American experience that won’t be found anywhere but in Washington. Spend the money, and connect with your cultural home. And be sure to thank me after you do.
Of the many great experiences I had in DC, there’s one that really stands out in my mind. On Good Friday, we went to see a play in Ford’s Theater. There was a museum aspect of it, for sure, but instead of doing that, we got tickets to see a two-man play about what happened that night at Ford’s, and in the years after it, as well.
The date of the assassination was less important to me than the fact that it happened on Good Friday, the same day that we were at the theater. I looked up at the president’s box, which is draped with flags just like you would expect. All those years before, Lincoln was in that room, waving to those who had come to see him more than the play that was being staged. And a newspaper announcement that he was to be there with General Grant that evening led Booth to put his long-thought of plan of assassination into action.
The next day, on our way out of DC, we all stopped and paid a visit to the Lincoln Memorial. You might feel as though you’ve seen it before, and in a way you have, if you’ve ever looked at the back of a penny. But the enormous scale of it is hard to realize unless you’ve been there in person. I read the words to the Gettysburg Address and the second inaugural speech, and looked upon the Lincolnian figure sitting in a chair, as if on a throne. But Lincoln was certainly no king, and I impressed that fact upon my children. The experience would not have been the same without them there with me.
The next day, Easter Sunday, we drove from Washington to Cleveland, Ohio, where I was able to complete the three-day Lincoln voyage by seeing The Conspirator in a movie theater. With thoughts of the assassination still fresh in my mind, it was fascinating to see how vengeance was extracted in the days that followed. It was as though I had prepped myself for the movie, entirely by accident.
There was no planning for such a unique convergence of events to occur. But Lincoln is all around us, provided that we want to find him. And one year ago, that’s exactly what we did.