Monumental Disrespect

by admin on November 3, 2011

I recently took a trip to Washington, D.C. As part of the trip, I took a tour of the city’s many monuments and memorials. I was absolutely appalled by the behavior of some of the younger set that I witnessed during the tour.

One of our stops was at the memorial to Franklin Delano Roosevelt. In the middle of it is a larger-than-life statue of FDR and his dog, Fala. Several kids wanted their picture taken with the “cute doggie”. OK, understandable. I walked on.

It was when I passed by again that my jaw truly dropped. Children were swarming the FDR statue, literally climbing all over it. One boy was hanging from FDR’s outstretched hand. Were any parents pulling them back? No, they were taking photos! I was disgusted. Not only could they potentially damage the statue, it was just downright disrespectful. This was a memorial, not a jungle gym. I couldn’t watch anymore, and returned to the tour bus.

Our next stop was the newly-opened Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial. It had just been dedicated that week, and I was anxious to see it. When I got there, the first thing I heard was excited screaming. A large group of girls around 12 years old were trying to get into formation for a photo in front of the towering statue of Dr. King, and they were shrieking and giggling like they were in line at a Justin Bieber concert. Worse yet, the curved shape and granite walls of the memorial meant the screaming echoed … a lot. It would be impossible way to quietly contemplate the memorial the way I had hoped to. Thankfully, a D.C. Parks Police officer spoke to the group’s chaperone, who yelled at the girls that this was a memorial and they needed to be quiet and respectful. Why it took a police officer talking to her for her to realize this, I do not know.

After the group settled down and I got in my quiet contemplation (it really is an awe-inspiring memorial), I went up to the police officer and thanked him for quieting the group. He shook his head and said he sees this behavior all the time. I shuddered to think of it happening at one of the war memorials – where there’s a good possibility of some of the deceased’s loved ones being there – or at Arlington National Cemetery, which is both a historic site and a place where military funerals are held on a regular basis. The police officer told me there are YouTube videos of the guards at Arlington’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier scolding spectators who show disrespect. I looked and was saddened to see just how many videos there are.

It’s a real shame that people seem to think any outdoor site is meant to be a play park.   1024-11



And here is one of those youtube videos of the guard sternly reprimanding the crowd…

I am sure there are people who will wring their hands claiming that the guard was oh so rude to speak to the crowd in this manner.   But in this context, the very firmly stated rebuke must have the force of conviction behind it in order to decisively address multiple offenders at one time and silence them quickly.   To do otherwise prolongs the disrespectful atmosphere.

{ 50 comments… read them below or add one }

lkb November 3, 2011 at 7:42 am

I wish I could bring that honor guard to my church! Really people, must we yak through everything? There is such a thing as a respectful silence.


Amy November 3, 2011 at 7:47 am

I realize that loud shrieking and laughter isn’t terribly approriate at a memorial, but am I the only one that thinks it’s awesome that a group of 12 year olds were that excited to see the new Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial? I would much rather see Justin Beiber-level excitement instead of apathy and boredom.


FLS November 3, 2011 at 8:09 am

I live in the DC metro area and use to work down town near the White House and in the Pentagon. I can attest to the disrespect and cavalier attitude tourists (both American and non-American) at these memorials and monuments.

Many years ago I had the opportunity to visit Pearl Harbor and I was appalled at the behavior I witnessed. It just saddens me.


Anonymous November 3, 2011 at 8:09 am

There is a fundamental difference between the tomb of the unknown soldier and the monuments in D.C. It is NOT fair to compare them. Not all this behavior was disrespectful.


andi November 3, 2011 at 8:13 am

This behavior is beyond sad.

Several years ago we went to the Holocast Memorial Museum in Washington D.C. It had only been open a year or so and at the time (not sure how it’s done now) you had to make a reservation for the day you wanted to attened. Our tour group arrived just behind a High School Group who recieved the same stern lecture we did concerning the code of conduct required while in the Memorial.

Not 30 minutes later that High School group was being escorted out after being warned TWICE to quiet down and be respectful. I was appalled and shocked. It took me 4 horus to travel through the memorial (and then i could have spent more time there but our group had to leave) and i can’t imagine trying to spend it while people disrespected what the memorial was there for.


Laurita November 3, 2011 at 8:19 am

There is nothing worse than going to a memorial and having people yak all the way through. They may think they are being quiet, but the sound carries when everyone else is silent.

I was a chaperone with a group of young people on a trip to Vimy Ridge. Just behind the huge monument there is a large open area. One of the kids (a teenager) jumped off the wall and started running and laughing past the monument. The tour leader (a teacher) was furious and put her right back on the bus. Thankfully, the rest of the 70 children had more respect.


DDP November 3, 2011 at 8:33 am

I had never heard of the guards correcting visitors at the Tomb of the Unknown Solider, so naturally, I searched for more clips. I think what amazed me the most was the extremely polite, but straightforward wording. It’s obvious that the guards are in charge of the situation, but they never insisted on this in a rude manner. So, appropriate for this site!!!


GroceryGirl November 3, 2011 at 8:37 am

While I agree that kids shouldn’t be climbing all over statues and people should be respectful at a tomb, I don’t think that 12-year-old girls giggling is that big a deal. I was a 12-year-old girl once, they giggle at everything! I agree with Amy that I’d rather see excitement than apathy.

I’m also not sure about that video of the guard. It didn’t seem like he was yelling so much that making that announcement was part of his job. He wasn’t yelling per say, it was just that loud official military voice. And the crowd didn’t seem to be that loud….


Jen November 3, 2011 at 9:03 am

The husband and I took a trip down to Fort Sumter to commemorate the 150 anniversary of the start of the Civil War. South Carolina is very hot in general and around the Fourth of July it was almost unbearable. I was speechless as I watched men walk around the fort and inside of the air conditioned museum topless. That’s right. They removed their shirts and walked around a national park like it was any other day.


Chocobo November 3, 2011 at 9:19 am

I have to agree with Amy. I’m not really all that offended by the behaviors described here, to be honest. I thought from the tone of the post that the perpetrators would be mocking the memorials or the persons the represent, or defacing them, or something. What stood out to me most was that children were excited to be at a national monument, and that’s pretty great.


squashedfrog November 3, 2011 at 9:19 am

In the UK we have a problem at the moment with scumbags who are stripping war memorials – because the brass plaques that hold the roll calls of the dead are worth money for the scrap metal.


Chocobo November 3, 2011 at 9:25 am

I also want to add that I agree with Anonymous too — I think there is a fundamental difference in atmosphere to be expected at memorials that commemorate a person’s life works (FDR, Lincoln, Washington, MLK) than those that memorialize deaths (Tomb of the Unknown Solider, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial). Children shouldn’t be climbing all over things anyway, but preteens giggling? That’s what preteens do, it’s practically their job.


Javin November 3, 2011 at 9:30 am

I tend to disagree with those that think it’s “good” that the 12 year old girls were giddy and excited at the MLK memorial. This is a *memorial* for an incredible man that single handedly advanced the social mentality more than any other person in U.S. history. At a time when racism was “the norm” and opportunities for education were few and far between for black Americans, not only did he rise above it, but he set a awe-inspiring standard guiding the rest of the country towards progress without violence or hate speech. He’s one of my top 5 most respected people in all of history. (And I’m Irish.) For his efforts he was assassinated. At no point would “giddy Justin Beiberish” excitement be appropriate as his MEMORIAL. These were girls that obviously did not know who he was, and what he’d done, but were excited to have an outing with their friends, and were giddy at the photo op. The appropriate reaction is awe and introspection. Not giddyness.

As prior military from a family where every male in our history has served, it would absolutely churn my stomach to see this kind of disrespect at a military memorial. It’s probably a good thing that I can’t watch the videos (they’re blocked here at work).


QueenofAllThings November 3, 2011 at 9:33 am

Same thing in the Vatican – Sistine Chapel. It’s a church, folks. There are huge signs everywhere saying No Photos (damages the art) and Quiet Please, and yet they must employ 4-6 burly men to quiet and manage the crowds.


Serenity S November 3, 2011 at 9:42 am

Yes, it was disrespectful of parents to allow their children to climb the FDR statue while they did nothing. And it is very disrespectful for people to be loud or disruptive at ANY cemetary, not just military cemeteries. But I think the OP was being a bit entitled at the Martin Luther King memorial. Yes, it was irritating that the teenage girls were giggling while they took a picture, but I do not think that they were being rude or disrespectful. They sound excited. When we go out in the world we do not have a right to always have people be quiet and stay still. Other people are just as entitled to be enthusiastic about viewing the memorial as OP is to be quiet and contemplative.


Lilac November 3, 2011 at 9:54 am

My kids and I have taken 3 trips in the last few years to places with significant tourist attractions and monuments–Mount Rushmore/Crazy Horse, DC, NYC, and Chicago. I have “museum” kids in that they love museums and monuments. In fact, when given a choice between DC and Disney, Disney didn’t have a chance. They were always well behaved but I have to say, I really thought everyone else was too. We visited every monument, the White House, Arlington, the Capitol, Statue of Liberty, etc. and I never saw any egregious behavior. Were there some kids who were a little rambunctious or whiny? Of course, but for the most part everyone behaved well. I think the bad behavior is pretty rare–perhaps that is why it stands out. Thousands of people visit these places every year and for every brat there are hundreds of people behaving perfectly fine. Also, I find it interesting that the OP highlights behavior at the FDR memorial. It is a lovely memorial and I felt it was more intimate that most of the others. It has a series of “rooms” that invite interaction–touching the reliefs or the water in the pools or standing in line with the bread line statues. I have a sweet photo of my daughter next to Fala and many people were also taking photos with the dog. I agree that climbing all over the statue is not acceptable but for me, it was nice seeing people interact with the memorial. It felt appropriate.


Kendo_Bunny November 3, 2011 at 9:57 am

I grew up around DC, and the tourists are generally appalling. I’m sure they are elsewhere as well, but maybe because most of the tourist attractions in DC are memorials and museums, it just seems worse. My personal “favorites”:

5) Giggling teenagers taking a snapshot of me as I knelt to pray in the National Cathedral.
4) A tourist yelling for the rest of her group to come over and look at a particular painting in the National Art Gallery.
3) A tourist shoving aside a small child in the Jefferson Memorial to get a better picture of the statue.
2) A tourist breaking a twig of blossoms off one of the cherry trees.

And my number 1 worst behavior I have ever witnessed ever:

A group of middle school students playing tag in the Holocaust Museum.
They had been playing with the candles earlier, giggling and squealing and cracking jokes, and I had thought that was appalling enough, but then they started a game of tag, and ended up knocking down a little old woman who had been conversing with her husband in German, so very possibly a survivor.


Aje November 3, 2011 at 10:01 am

I´ll never forget the day I graduated from college. Everyone was talking during the ceremony. My friend and I could only each other in shock. We´re education majors, and student teaching was the last thing we did before graduation. You´d think people who spent the last 6 months telling kids to be quiet during their lessons would have the good sense to shut up.


Meegs November 3, 2011 at 10:05 am

Total POD to Amy and GroceryGirl about the group of 12 year old girls. I don’t see that they did anything wrong at all and I think it’s cool that they were excited about being there. If there were a lecture or tour-guided thing go on, that would be one thing, but if everyone was just there? Sorry, not seeing any rudeness worth mentioning.


Gracie C. November 3, 2011 at 10:05 am

I agree with anonymous (#4) – there is a huge difference between a monument that pays tribute, and a momument that acts as a memorial space. For example, I think there is a much greater expectation for solemnity in places that memorialize the fallen (Pearl Harbor, Tomb of Unknown Soldier, etc) than there is at places that pay tribute to the accomplishments of great people.

The website for the National Mall states:

“Pierre L’Enfant, the visionary behind Washington, DC’s layout and design, imagined an open space at the heart of the nation’s capital that would serve as a “monument center” – an urban oasis celebrating America’s most important leaders. More than 230 years later, the National Mall is the fulfillment of L’Enfant’s dreamscape. Extending from the Capitol Building to the Lincoln Memorial and from the White House to the Jefferson Memorial, the Mall immortalizes our nation’s heroes and provides a gathering place for the public to honor, enjoy, remember, protest and mourn.”

You’ll notice both the words celebrate and enjoy along with remember and mourn (not to mention protest). While people are certainly allowed to want a moment of quiet reflection, not everyone pays tribute to or absorbs history in the same way.


Cat November 3, 2011 at 10:27 am

I taught high school/middle school for over thirty years. and retired in September. I never saw a child get excited over seeing a memorial. Nor did I ever find a child who thought MLK was the equivalent of a teenage rock star.
They yell, scream and giggle because they have never been taught good behavior and have never been punished for bad. I once had to explain to a 16 year old girl that the reason she could not sit in her desk with her legs spread wide while wearing a short skirt was that I should not know that she was wearing red, black and white striped underwear. I had the same problem with a 17 year old boy who did not wear underwear under short shorts. I sent him home twice in two days.
The local government mint had to stop field trips because the behavior of the high school students was so bad that it presented a security problem. The zoo has lost animals that were so terrified of the school field trip children who run up screaming at them, throwing things at them, etc. that the animals run into the walls trying to escape and break their necks. A local high school had to stop showing a famous film about the Holocaust because the kids thought it was funny to see people being tortured and murdered. They whooped and screamed with laughter.
I cannot wait to see what the next generation will be like when these kids become parents.


Lola November 3, 2011 at 10:44 am

It’s strange, but when I was in DC several years ago and visited a number of memorials and monuments and the Arlington Cemetery, I didn’t encounter any unpleasantness. Everybody was perfectly respectful and polite. Perhaps, we see what we want to see.


claire November 3, 2011 at 10:45 am

Meh. I take the point that monuments should be respected.Primarily in my opinion, war memorials. In this country recently a young person was convicted of criminal offences after he swung from a flag suspended off the Cenotaph in London, he was drunk, during the student protests. Rightly so.

I would differentiate between this dreadful disrespect shown by him, and what sounds like very youthful high spirits in the second scenario, particularly if the children in question were excited about visiting the memorial. I didn’t witness the behaviour myself but if they calmed down immediately when told to, then perhaps that is a lesson learned for them, and after all, children only learn if we teach them. Hopefully next time they will temper their enthusiasm with appropriate calm.

In the first scenario I would, as a parent, have allowed my child to pose WITH the statue standing nicely but not climb on it, and agree that the parents here were certainly lax. It is extremely important not to ruin a child’s new experience with *too* much instruction/nagging, and a little relevant enthusiasm and excitement is fine as long as its accompanied by obedience.

The OP’s tone is somewhat superior, in my honest opinion. If OP wants absolute quiet in which to contemplate a memorial thats fine, I can respect that completely, but these were memorials to inspiring leaders who should instill fire, awe and enthusiasm in those who learn about them. People SHOULD be excited by wat these leaders achieved. Children especially. The tomb of Unknown soldier is a different matter, likewise the Holocaust Museum, as these commemorate many deaths and should be viewed in sombre silence.

The OP strikes me as a person who would also frown at children excited by beautiful art in an art gallery or an amazing display in a museum .And as one who allows others excitement to ruin their own experience, when it really needn’t. Which is a shame, really. These things SHOULD be exciting to children.


Melissa November 3, 2011 at 10:52 am

@GroceryGirl- Any talking is too much talking at the Tomb of the Unknown. It’s a small space surrounded by stone and the seating area is not that large. Silence is a sign of respect for what that memorial represents.


zimi61 November 3, 2011 at 10:54 am

Unfortunately it’s not just an American thing, it’s a tourist thing. My new husband and I came to that realization this summer. When running into tourists, we always found them to be the most disrespectful of any group and yet they were the ones who traveled however many miles to get to where they were.

One experience that sticks out in my head was when we were in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris on Bastille Day. Admission was free and the church was packed. We are not terribly religious but, Notre Dame is still a church even if it’s known more as a tourist attraction now that a place of worship. They do still hold services.

We had waited in line and followed a particular family in who clearly were not Catholic, but that was definitely not an issue. I bring it up though because I’m sure that if a child of a different faith had acted the way they let their child behave in their house of worship there would have been some extreme offense. I was appalled though that they were lifting their child or letting him climb over guard ropes to sit on or hang on or crawl over these religious and centuries old artifacts for the purpose of pictures and decreased boredom.

I finally told the mother that it was inappropriate that she let her child do these things and that I would inform security if it continued. I’m sure she did not speak any English, but she got the point.

It always floored us where people got the idea that the culture or special site they were visiting did not deserve the consideration they must have thought it held before they arrived there which would have made it special enough to make the visit.


Jilly November 3, 2011 at 10:56 am

Using the monument as jungle gym – entirely inappropriate. Completely agree with that. If people continue to disrespect such things, it will likely be cordoned off, or worse – destroyed.

However, when it comes to seeing young kids getting excited over history – I would rather encourage it in a productive way rather than impede curiosity, growth and interest. Were they swearing? Were they spitting? Were they clambering over each other? I realize that it is wonderful to be able to sit, admire and think, especially when it is a monument of great importance, not just to oneself, but to so many. And I have to admit, I’d probably be quite irked if my expectation and hopes had been for quiet contemplation. But being able to look at this with a 20/20 3rd person view – it actually makes me happy.


stillinva November 3, 2011 at 11:08 am

having been to the Tomb of the Unknown many times, i have seen this kind of speech from the guard exactly once. and that was after stopping during his tour and turning towards those being disrepectful to stare didn’t work.

i have seen the guards stop, and turn towards the crowd to quell disrespectful behavior with a look, several times. it’s very effective, and works most of the time.


Wendy November 3, 2011 at 11:14 am

I love the guard in the video! Unfortunately, I think he and his fellow guards have to do that fairly regularly.

When I was a little girl, we used to visit Washington DC fairly regularly. From the age of 7 my parents instilled in me respect for the monuments, memorials and museums. You speak quietly, you only touch carefully (if touching is allowed), you take your pictures and respect those around you. I don’t think many parents are teaching this to their kids. I understand being in a group of your peers can be an energizing event, but I can also remember stern reprimands from teachers/parents/etc. to shut up and be quiet.

My husband and I just spent a week in Colonial Williamsburg and surrounding area. While at the museum in Historic Jamestowne a crowd of kids came in. They talked loudly, screeched, pushed their way in front of other people and generally created mayhem. While I appreciated their enthusiasm for the subject matter, 25 enthusiastic kids in an enclosed space, pushing into exhibits, got overwhelming after a while. And the adults with them did little to curb the noise. We ended up going outside until most of them had left, then returning to see what we’d missed.


airlinepass November 3, 2011 at 11:14 am

On my first visit to D.C. I stopped by the Vietnam’s Women’s memorial, only to witness 3 guys taking pictures of them touching the female statutes’ breasts and rears. Their approximate physical ages? Well into their 40s.

Karma reared its ugly head as a male park ranger yelled at them, stating that he had served with brave women in his time in the military and to stop what they were doing. They were about to protest as a group of retired veterans (all male) told them to get lost and never to disrespect the memorials again. An elderly man in a wheelchair even made motion that he would stand up and “take care of these punks!” They turned beet red and quickly ran off.


Sterling November 3, 2011 at 11:27 am

I guess I am rude then. I never thought of a statue as something you have to be quiet in front of. I don’t think people should hang off of it but I also don’t see what is so wrong about wanting to take pictures with it or talking in front of it. It is one think to talk during the dedication of a memorial but I never knew the mere presence of the statue meant silence.


purple frog November 3, 2011 at 12:09 pm

I agree with Jen.

We were at the Pegasus Bridge memorial, there were men wandering round with no tops, and children climbing on EVERYTHING! My little boy was 14 months at the time, and although he was walking, we kept him on his reins and moved on if he got overexcied by the planes etc.

My grandfather was on the trip with us, thankfully he didn’t head down till later when it was cooler, the total disrespect of these people would have really upset him. His uncle was among those lost defending the bridge.

WW2 may seem historical to some, but its still within memory of others.


Hellbound Alleee November 3, 2011 at 12:14 pm

I for one am glad that the girls have the freedom in this country to be joyful and frivolous around monuments in the capitol area, rather than being arrested for this behavior. Being carefree like that is the definition of freedom.


Snowy November 3, 2011 at 12:20 pm

@Amy It reads to me that they weren’t excited about the memorial–they were excited about having a group picture taken, and were giggling and making a ruckus the same as if they were doing it at a birthday party.


Lilybell November 3, 2011 at 12:27 pm

I lived in DC for 20 years and used to volunteer at one of the popular memorials. While the screaming children were definitely rude, I don’t think it’s a big deal for children to be climbing or posing on the statues. It’s not going to hurt bronze and the powers that be do not mind it at all – in fact, the guards are told not to tell people to get off them, so your outrage at that is a bit misplaced.


Kai November 3, 2011 at 12:37 pm

I don’t think that people have to be absolutely silent in museums, memorials, etc – but they do need to be respectful. If all of 20 people speak at normal room volume then the noise compounds and gets worse until everyone’s yelling to hear over each other. If they whisper, then the noise is there but not as bad as before.

A local zoo here has signs in the children’s area (and the rest of the zoo) that say “do not shout, hit the glass, etc” and they enforce it by having a phone number to report bad behavior. However, for those who just need to blow off steam, they have a large grassy open area with a playground in the center, plus some statues that are meant to be climbed on. Kids who need to run and shout can do so here, away from any exhibits and areas where they would be disruptive to animals and other people. I think it strikes a nice balance. However, memorials and so forth don’t always get to have a chance to have that sort of separation. Many were designed years ago and cannot be built on/expanded to permit such, or just plain are not that sort of thing (the Holocaust museum comes to mind).

I do get that kids’ volume controls are not always operable when they are excited — BUT they should be told to keep it down out of respect to others. It IS possible to remark to your friend, “Wow, this is cool,” at a whisper rather than at the level of a jet engine.


Ashley November 3, 2011 at 12:51 pm

My feelings on this are mixed, because a small part of me is hoping that the girls at the MLK memorial were excited they were seeing something historical, but I also realize they were probably just excited to not be sitting in a classroom.

This happens at museums and such as well. My fiance and I like museums very much, and try to go to them as often as we can, even if we have seen the main exhibits hundreds of times (the museum nearest to us hasn’t changed much since we first went there way back in first grade). But the special exhibits are always a treat and it’s always annoying how often there are children running around and making noise in a very distracting fashion. I want to make it very clear here, I don’t expect perfection. An occasional “Hey mom/dad! Look at this!” is to be expected, but I have had kids of all ages RUN in front of me and completely block the view of whatever I was looking at/reading, then literally shriek their way to the next bit of the exhibit. Meanwhile, their parents look on and don’t do anything.

I am not trying to boast but I am extremely proud of the fact that my brothers and I were never like that. My mom saved all kinds of stuff from when we were in school, not just report cards but notes from teachers for any time we did anything of note, good or bad. There are notes tucked away from teachers about how well behaved we were on field trips and things. So this is one subject that really does bother me. I don’t have kids yet, but when I do, I really really really hope I manage to raise them in such a way that I don’t ever wind up having to yell at them for being disrespectful ANYWHERE in public.


EditorBree November 3, 2011 at 12:55 pm

I had an experience a bit like this, but it was the teacher causing the disruption, not the students. I studied abroad in Italy when I was in college, and since we were covering art history, we made a trip to the Vatican and saw the Sistine Chapel. There are signs all over the place in there (in all languages) warning people to remember that this is a chapel and you are to remain quiet. Our teacher ignored all the signs and went right ahead with her lesson, talking about things we could have very easily discussed outside or later, while looking at reproductions of the ceiling in books. Guards repeatedly warned her to be quiet, but she just waited until they moved away, rolled her eyes like she couldn’t believe they were doing their job, and started talking again. Since we were all young and dependent on her goodwill for decent grades, none of us was comfortable speaking up and asking her to stop talking, but every one of the students in our group was beyond mortified. Clearly, disrespect is not limited to the young.


Shea November 3, 2011 at 12:58 pm

@Hellbound Aleee, I do agree that it’s a good thing that people don’t get arrested for clowning around at national monuments, but there’s a time and place. That place is not at memorials. I don’t think it’s necessary to be as quiet and solemn at, say the FDR Memorial, as at Arlington or the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but shrieking and climbing on the statues still isn’t appropriate. Just because one has the right to do something doesn’t mean it’s the proper thing to do.

Several years ago I visited Pearl Harbor and went out to the USS Arizona. The Arizona isn’t only a memorial to the sailors who died at Pearl Harbor, it’s also a burial site: the bodies of the sailors who went down with the ship are still there. Most people were suitably quiet and respectful, but there was one tour group who seemed to have mistaken the site for a theme park. They were talking loudly, laughing, and taking pictures of each other clowning around and making funny faces. Nice, folks, really nice.


Tammy November 3, 2011 at 1:11 pm

While I sympathize with you, rather than being offended, please try to remember what it was like to be a child/teen or what it was like to have children. Children are not quiet or solemn, life is more fun for them. If we want kids these days to learn about these places, we just might have to put up with a little noise.


Kat November 3, 2011 at 1:19 pm

I’m with Sterling and Hellbound Alleee. Absolutely. Being vocal and enthusiastic isn’t the same as being disrespectful at all.


Jojo November 3, 2011 at 1:22 pm

Heavens above! Children behaving like children, whatever next?! I used to work for a tour company, if you choose to take tours at busy times when tourist traffic is high, then you have to put up with people and their unruly, inconsiderate, inappropriate behaviour.
If you really want to appreciate a memorial in peace then you have to go in the early morning during the middle of February as a general rule in the Northern Hemisphere. Disney is also brilliant for a visit at this time.
Personally, I must be extremely rude as I don’t see why children and young teenagers shouldn’t be allowed to interact with pieces of stone and metal in their own way – albeit quietly. Our local museums are designed so that children can run around and interact with history and find their own unique understanding of the world by being part of it.
Yes, there are places like churches, holocaust memorials and cemeteries where a child’s care provider has a duty to instill some discipline and respect for others and their surroundings. But I’m fairly sure MLK would happily put up with a bit of silly horsing around by visitors in exchange for the fact that those kids are of many different races, all treated equally. Seems to me it is the spirit of the memorial we need to embrace not the material from which is is made, after all, we can pass on that spirit and knowledge – all physical memorials will one day just become dust no matter how much care and reverence they receive.


Kay November 3, 2011 at 1:27 pm

One doesn’t have to remember something in order to be respectful. People who visit historic sites, memorials and monuments as lovers of history and the human story will be just as reverent as those who experienced it first hand. It’s the people who neither experienced it nor understand exactly what history is, but rather for whom the site is unreal (as if it were a recreation or amusement park), who are problematic.

I visited Pegasus Bridge on a cold, wet day. I was the only one out there which was fine by me, especially after reading about your experience. Cast me into E-Hell but I have told people off at historic sites and memorials for inappropriate behavior.


Allie November 3, 2011 at 1:39 pm

I think it’s sad that there doesn’t seem to be any real parenting anymore. People are blind to the antics of their little darlings – they just outright ignore bad behaviour and heaven forbid anyone dare say anything about it. I wasn’t allowed to wear jeans or shorts and t-shirts to places like churches, museums or doctors’ offices, where my grandmother felt one was to display a level of respect and decorum, and I would have been spanked if I’d screamed, run around or tried to climb all over a monument.


Pam November 3, 2011 at 1:46 pm

I can’t find a source to link to make my point, but as a resident of the DC area, and one who works in the city proper, it is my understanding that the FDR memorial was, in fact, designed to encourage interaction — including children in the fountain, etc. Without having witnessed what the poster actually saw, it may have been what the designers had in mind– interaction with the statues. And I agree with a previous responder about the girls at the MLK statue – yes, their behavior could have been better, but to find girls at that age who are interested in even being at the site, is a good thing. There’s a fine line between disrespect and lack of social graces.


Calli Arcale November 3, 2011 at 1:47 pm

It’s okay to talk at most of the monuments around DC. But you shouldn’t be disruptive — there is such a thing as common decency, after all, and other people are trying to enjoy the art and appreciate the memory of the people represented. But there are exceptions. The biggest is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. They have it clearly posted that silence is expected of all guests. The guards should not have to remind guests, and usually they don’t — but when they do, the experience is one sure to stick, for guard duty at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is considered a high honor, and only the best of the best are allowed to serve there. If anyone can shush someone, it’s them. 😉

Hellbound Alleee — yes, it is wonderful that these girls have the freedom to be rude. It would be a dark day if we started to put the force of law behind common etiquette. But they were still rude.


Kaiti November 3, 2011 at 2:16 pm

I used to live in DC, and I have to say the worst group of tourists I ever saw was at a Boy Scout Jamboree. A friend and I decided to “play tourist” and spend a weekend visiting a few museums & such, and had no idea the Boy Scouts were in town. They were EVERYWHERE, and being that they were all wearing identical uniforms, I was amazed the chaperons could even tell which was which! They ran through crowds, talked way too loud (almost yelling was about the only way to be heard over the din of hundreds of loudmouths in an enclosed space), pushed each other into everyone else, and were just generally a big nuisance. I kept an iron grip on my purse, lest one of them take off with it.

And then there was the troop from Korea. All quiet, polite, and well-behaved, following their chaperon through whatever museum they were in, paying attention to the exhibits, and just generally being angels. It took a lot of restraint to keep from hugging all of them and their troop leader.


Shea November 3, 2011 at 2:32 pm

About the girls “just being excited”…well, maybe they were. But when I was 10, my parents and I went to Washington, D.C. (we’re from the Pacific Northwest, so it was a biggish trip for us). I was just about the biggest 4th grade history nerd ever, so I was over the moon excited about seeing all the monuments. But before we left on the trip, my parents made sure to have a talk with me about the different kinds of behavior that would be expected at the monuments and memorials. I’m quite sure I didn’t run around shrieking at the FDR Memorial (which had just opened at the time), even though at that age I was fascinated by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt and extremely excited about being there. Even if the girls were acting like that from excitement about history, it still wasn’t good behavior.


Twik November 3, 2011 at 2:33 pm

With regards to giggling, there’s giggling because they’re excited to see something important – and there’s giggling because they’re with their friends, and feel like laughing at everything, including memorials. Whichever it was, it was up to the adults to teach them the proper way to behave.

A reason for misbehaving is not the same as an excuse, and correcting behaviour is not an appalling case of child abuse.


Hemi Halliwell November 3, 2011 at 2:46 pm

I work in a museum and it’s not just tourists that are disrespectful, its also the people who live and work in the community.
We do a lot of school field trips and, sometimes, the parents are worse than the children. Grouping together to talk and giggle and/or talking on their cell phones while the guide is explaining the exhibits and trying to teach the children something new. Even though they are supposed to be chaperoning the trip, wandering off to different exhibit halls during the program. One parent even severely damaged an exhibit just being an a-hole and he was a resident of the city our museum is in.
I also understand the jungle gym/playground issue mentioned. Many parents think the museum is a perfect place to let their children go wild and roam about unsupervised. We have had to lock down the museum many times because a child would be found crying somewhere, alone, having no idea where their parents were. Once, the parents had left the child in the museum and went to get something to eat at the next exit!!!
I have spent many days watching children climb on exhibits, cross ropes, etc and had to call Security to go get them down or find their parents. Before our museum expanded, I had to go physically remove children from atop glass display cases while their parents where in another room, not even attempting to supervise their children.
We have many “touch” pieces and interactive displays in all of our exhibit halls. If something is “roped” off or has protective materials around it, you do not touch or climb on them, right? Wrong. I have seen parents put their kids over ropes, on displays, across plexi-glass and metal railings for photo ops.
We also have after-hours events at our museum. At one wedding reception, even though it was clearly posted “NO food or drink beyond this point”, 2 young ladies took it upon theirselves to take their drinks into the exhibit halls, climb on platforms and take pictures of each other. When one of their stiletto high heels damaged a display surface, they even took a picture of that. They then posted the pictures on Facebook and added captions such as “No drinks in the exhibit halls, yeah right” and the photo with the damage by the high heels “Mary left her mark behind”. I suggested sending the girls a bill care of the couple who had rented the museum. I got vetoed.
Sorry- did not mean to run on so long but this is a huge pet peeve of mine. I do not think the girls did anything wrong giggling and being excited at the MLK memorial. They were teenage girls, they giggle about everything.


Tracy November 3, 2011 at 3:08 pm

Looks like we were in DC the same weekend :). I agree that people can be disrespectful when it comes to places such as the ones you mentioned. That said, I think that there is a difference between the monuments and memorials/Arlington. Chatter etc isn’t so bad at some place like the MLK or FDR monuments. However, I saw a lot of bad behavior at Arlington and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The noise level at one point got so loud that the honor guard had to reprimand the audience. Also while watching the changing of the guard, some people tried to run into the area in order to catch the ceremony. They were also stopped.


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