When I moved to Washington, D.C. in 1969, my wife and I had been married a little under two years. She was pregnant with our daughter. My body, meanwhile, was bursting with a different kind of excitement. I had a new, dream job at a radio station soon to initiate an all-news format in the nation’s capital. I was 24 years old.
I had been to Washington only twice before for brief, one-day visits. That’s all it took—I fell in love. I actually felt it was some kind of destiny that brought me there and made it my new home. I usually don’t believe in that way of thinking, but there was just that kind of feeling I had.
I was in awe as I wandered from one landmark to another–sites I’d seen on television were now right before me. What I found incredible was how easy it was to tour the buildings. It was as if there was so much respect for these institutions that security was not a concern. Case in point: the front doors of the U.S. Capitol building. You’ve all seen this side of the Capitol. It has that long, steep flight of steps leading up to the entrance that opens into the great rotunda. The doors feature bronze sculptures showcasing the life of Christopher Columbus. Traffic is too busy through this passageway when the building is open, making it impossible to stop and view the doors. The doors, however, are totally visible in the evening after the building is closed.
When I had visitors from out of town, we’d all go see the doors. I would park my car along the curb at the bottom of the steps. We’d all get out of the car, I’d wave to the guard and tell him we were just going up to see the doors and he’d smile and wave us on. Sometimes we walked around to the other side to see the outrageous evening view all the way to the Washington Monument. When we were finished our tour, we’d go back down the steps, wave goodnight to the guard and drive off. Can you imagine that? We stood at the front door of the nation’s Capitol, free to roam around at will and no one bothered us.
In the next ten years that I lived in Washington, my exposure—and close it was at times—to all the glitz, all the glamour and all the very serious elements of how our country runs, left me with a deep appreciation for our democracy. Likewise, my interest in the history of our country went to a whole new level. Washington will do that to you. And that is why I do not know how to feel this night after watching an ignorant and disrespectful mob invade the Capitol. Yes, I feel insulted and hurt, even embarrassed for my country, but it is so much more than that…and none of it feels good.