By Jean Parietti
Eighth-graders at St. Mary Magdalen School saw plenty of sights in and around the nation's capital, despite the partial government shutdown that started just before their class trip began.
St. Mary Magdalen eighth-graders Joe Judge, left, Anjelica DeLeon, Carrie Edson and Jeric Williams participated in a wreath-laying ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery's Tomb of the Unknowns. Photo: Tim Judge
"We even expressed our First Amendment rights and walked through the barrier and saw and touched the Vietnam and Korean Memorials," said teacher aide Jo Johnson, who organized the trip. "No one even bothered us," she said, noting that many other people had bypassed the barricades that were set up when the memorials were officially closed.
Students raised money for a year so that all 35 classmates could make the trip, accompanied by 15 adults and two other teachers. "We had an amazing time," Johnson said.
It was disappointing for students not to be able to walk the steps up to the Lincoln Memorial or explore the Smithsonian Institute museums because of the shutdown. But they had plenty of other interesting expeditions. In Virginia, they went on a ghost tour in Williamsburg and visited Colonial Jamestown. Activities in D.C. included exploring the privately operated International Spy Museum and the Newseum, and hearing a presentation at the United States Agency for International Development. Although public tours of the Capitol building are suspended because of the shutdown, the group got a private tour led by their congressman, U.S. Rep. Rick Larsen, D-2nd District.
Colonial times became more realistic to St. Mary Magdalen students Nick Klemp, left, Sam Johnson, Jeric Williams, Joe Judge, Gabe Feliciano and Ben Hines during a visit to Jamestown, Va. Photo: Tim Judge
In Alexandria, Va., four students participated in the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider. "It was truly a goose-bump event," said Johnson, who made the request more than a year ago. A different group is chosen to participate every hour, but this is only the second time St. Mary Magdalen students been chosen to participate, Johnson added.
A highlight for the group was attending Mass Oct. 5 at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, where students Henry Wright and Daniel Kozuck served Mass and four other students presented the gifts.
Eighth grade teacher Elizabeth Wilson said Mass at the shrine provided the most powerful moment of the trip for her. "Our kids didn't move until last note of the final hymn was sung. The grown-ups and the priest were long gone, but our kids just stayed," she said. "I don't know if they knew why they did that, but they just knew it was the right thing to do. I was so proud of them."
Words honoring Mary frame St. Mary Magdalen eight-graders during their visit to the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. Photo: Tim Judge
October 12, 2013