WASHINGTON D.C. — Empire middle-school students taking an educational trip to Washington, D.C., and New York City got their first lesson before even getting on the plane Wednesday: the importance of having a backup plan.
When they started planning their trip months ago, the students of Aspire Vanguard College Preparatory Academy in Empire certainly didnt expect to land in our nations capital only to find Closed signs everywhere.
As the federal government shutdown loomed, their families and tour provider scrambled to create a Plan B. With so many must-sees of any D.C. tour the Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, Smithsonian Institution museum complex, etc. off the itinerary, they took stock of attractions not dependent on federal funding.
The groups tour is through E.F. Smithsonian Student Travel unrelated to the D.C. institution but ironically enough (sharing a name with) the museum we wont be seeing, parent Heather Tutorow said Wednesday morning as students and parent chaperones prepared to leave Riverbank to catch a flight out of Sacramento.
They (the institution) wont even let us on the steps, from what I understand. Thus the crying fit yesterday. By one or more of the students? By me, said Tutorow, who said shes a plan-oriented person and the shutdown threw her for a loop.
But she and the other parents are staying optimistic.
Travel is an adventure, Tutorow said, and were about to have quite an adventure.
The students for the most part seemed unfazed. Brett Lopez had planned to do a report on what he saw in the Smithsonian, but hell find another subject. Ditto for Lily Wong, who was going to do a report on the Lincoln Memorial and its reflecting pond.
The group seven eighth-graders, one seventh-grader and three parents was to arrive in D.C. about midnight Wednesday. On the itinerary today are Arlington National Cemetery (most of its civilian employees are exempt from furlough) and Mount Vernon, which is privately funded and about a 45-minute drive from Washington, Tutorow said.
While she said shell miss visiting D.C.s monuments and memorials up close if the shutdown continues, student Marissa Wood, 13, was pleased that shell get to visit Arlington, to which she has a personal connection.
Her fathers brother, Downey High School grad Justin Wood, was just 21 and an airman first class when he and 18 others were killed in a truck bomb attack on the Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia in June 1996. He is interred at San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery in Santa Nella, but two of the 19 victims of that attack were laid to rest at Arlington, and Marissa said she is honored to represent her family in paying respects at their graves.
Friday, if the shutdown remains in effect, the group will visit the other unaffected attractions: the Newseum They have (Unabomber) Ted Kaczynskis little house in the lobby, and on the top floor is the radio tower from the World Trade Center, Tutorow said enthusiastically as well as the International Spy Museum and Madame Tussauds wax museum.
And were still hoping that theyll have the lights on the monuments at night, she said.
This is probably my sixth trip to D.C., and Ive learned that for everything you have time to see, there are 50 or 60 you dont get to.
The most important thing for me is I want the kids to see the best of our country, because if you see the best, you can be the best, Tutorow said. D.C. is supposed to be the best of our country, but these kids wont be seeing the people there at their best, behaving their best.
Was the group planning to meet with any local congressional representatives, and has that changed? We tried to reach (Rep. Jeff) Denhams office, but no luck, said parent Karen Wong.
Hes a little busy now trying to be reasonable, which is nice, Tutorow added.
After D.C., the group will spend a couple of days in NYC, which has some of the kids just as or more excited than visiting the Capitol, especially in light of the shutdown.
There, they will visit Times Square, see Annie on Broadway and take a boat out to the Statue of Liberty, though they cant disembark because thats right the famous lady is federal property.