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Jim Fabiano of York is a retired teacher and writer.
The older one gets, the easier it is to remember things that you thought were not important enough to remember. Watching the impeachment trial of former President Donald J. Trump, a memory came to me that brought both a smile and a tear.
It had to be close to a quarter of a century ago when I was a high school teacher working in Raymond, New Hampshire. I was young and excited with the idea that if I worked hard enough I could make a difference in another person’s life.
It was toward the end of a school year that meant it was the time to take the graduating class on a field trip to our nation’s capital. I was surprised and honored that these students asked me to chaperone for them on their last high school excursion.
The week before we were to be loaded onto the large silver buses, one of my students suffered a leg injury playing in her final soccer match. I volunteered to push the wheelchair we had managed to fit on the bus. Needless to say my apprehension increased exponentially.
When we arrived in Washington, D.C., we were all awed by the majesty of our nation’s capital. I was left to attempt to keep up with our group pushing the wheelchair that carried my injured yet appreciative student. When we reached the capitol steps I knew there was no way I could get my student, whose name was Beth, up the mountain of steps in order to view where the center of our government worked.
The tour guide, seeing the disappointed looks on our faces, said we could go toward the rear of the capitol where we could enter without having to climb the stairs. I thanked him and off toward the rear we walked. When we reached the entrance there were no guards at the door. In fact, I did not see any uniformed policeman throughout our tour of the capitol.
The one thing I clearly remember was how awed we were when we entered the building. It was beautiful and had the smell of history. We then walked through the halls and into any of the rooms and offices that were unlocked.
There were no blockades or places marked to say we couldn’t visit. We looked out into the Senate where decisions that both changed and protected our lives would take place. It was incredibly majestic not because of all the shiny small wooden desks, gold decorations and marble throughout, but it just felt magical. Throughout our excursion we visited offices held by leaders of our nation.
We passed multiple people wandering the halls. None would have noticed us had it not been for Beth raising her right hand and introducing herself by stating, “Hello, I am Beth.” The people passing did not ignore this gesture but answered her by smiling and stating who they were. I would like to report the names of these people but memory has a tendency to fade away with time.
We walked through the workings of our capitol for over an hour with Beth introducing herself to anyone who passed her chair. I said nothing because I was still awed by the experience we both fell into. We never did find her schoolmates and left the way we entered. All of her peers surrounded her in the bus excited to hear about how she met the people who ran all of their futures.
I remember this experience as one of my favorite times of my teaching experience. In the past, I always smiled, but now after Jan. 6, 2021, I feel as though the innocence of my memory has been stolen. I watch how fences and razor wire now surround our capitol. I see the military in the streets and I no longer see buses filled with students impatiently waiting to be part of the center of their lives.
The older one gets, the easier it is to remember things that you thought were not important enough to remember. I just wish I could forget Jan. 6.