No matter how many times you get off the Blue Line or Orange Line at the Smithsonian Station, it’s hard not to gawk a little bit.
The stop along Washington’s Metro line puts you smack dab in the middle of the National Mall next to the original Smithsonian Museum with the Washington Monument, and further on down the Lincoln Memorial, to your left. To the right is Capitol Hill.
No matter what your politics, taking in that view – especially in the spring when the cherry blossoms are in full bloom – is something every American should experience.
When my family and I lived in the D.C. area we rode the Metro.
I still have vivid memories of carefully leading our first son as a toddler up the escalator at a downtown station to visit my wife’s office.
Or taking a trip to the then-brand new sports arena (its current corporate lexicon escapes me) to see college basketball and Washington Capitals hockey.
Or to Union Station to cover an event on the Hill, the panorama memorable.
Riding the Metro is an afterthought because it’s A.) Very accessible, B.) Remarkably clean, and C.) As close to consistently on time as you could expect a major public transportation system to be.
Having experienced public transportation in many other U.S. cities and a few in Europe, the Metro still stands as the best, hands down, in my mind.
And that is what compounds Monday’s tragic Red Line crash in Maryland.
We all know that accidents can happen, but when disaster strikes the cream of the crop, it becomes all the more unsettling.
On a personal level it reminds us that our great expectations of the people and institutions around us we hold in highest esteem can let us down. We all have our own lists, and these disappointments only underscore the importance of faith.
As for the Metro, it will continue as an easily navigable system for the tourist throng and travel-savvy Washingtonians alike. For most us, it’s a solemn reminder to not take for granted the countless number of times we’ve arrived home unscathed and without incident.