One of my favorite things in DC was something that I didn't have much interest in seeing, The Wall, or the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. We happened to wander up to it after walking all over the mall on a ridiculously cold November afternoon. We were all completely frozen and just trying to get back to the metro when we walked past the memorial. We decided that since we were there, we might as well go see it.
The wall is shockingly moving. When you look at it from afar, it doesn't look very big and impressive, but as you walk down the path that leads you farther and farther into the memorial, it starts to overwhelm you. The wall is made up of graduating slabs of polished black marble with the names of the 58,000 men and women who lost their lives in the Vietnam war. The first slabs you walk by are only inches off the ground but as you get to the heart of the memorial (and the center of a giant 'V') the slabs are easily eight or nine feet high. And they are packed with names. Thousands and thousands of names. I don't think it is actually possible to conceive how many 58,000 is until you are standing in front of it. Reading the names that are surrounding you, causing your eyes to blur and you heart to tear in half, it's stunning. I called my father, a Vietnam veteran, and told him I loved him.
The most remarkable thing happened that afternoon. We reached the memorial right after sunset. The black stone had been sitting in the sun all day and after it went down, it was releasing the heat it had stored up. It was a bitterly cold day, but around that memorial it was much warmer. The stone itself was about 85 degrees. We all warmed our hands and pressed our faces against the stone. I know it sounds weird, but I felt such a connection to that monument. It was almost magical, in an incredibly sad way.
Even if you don't care at all about seeing this, you should. It is impossible to describe. The memorial is located on the mall, just to the right of the Lincoln memorial. Go see it. I can assure you it will be memorable.