Are Tourists Free to Wade at a Memorial?

Visitors wade in the Rainbow Pool at the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Some people feel wading there shows a lack of respect. (THE WASHINGTON POST)

Would you wade in Washington D.C.’s Rainbow Pool?

Let’s say it is a very hot day. There is hardly any shade nearby. But there is a cool pool, fed by a fountain.There are other people and kids wading in the pool.

On the other hand, that pool is part of the National World War II Memorial. There are signs saying not to wade in the pool. There are visitors who have come to honor those who served, and those who died, in World War II.

Is it OK to dip your feet in the pool?

No Big Deal

Opinions on the matter are mixed. Some visitors to the site find it rude and wrong for people to wade in the fountain. But plenty of tourists see nothing wrong with wading.

Eric Echevarria, 31, carried his young child into the pool on a hot summer day. He ignored the signs that read, “Honor Your Veterans. No wading. Coins damage fountain.”

He said the pool was a place to “relax, cool off.”

He was visiting from New Jersey. “People will say what they say,” he added.

Ashlee Montgomery, from Maryland, dipped her feet in the fountain. Her 6-year-old son splashed around in the pool.

“It’s a place to come and spend time with family,” she said. Her grandfather fought in World War II. She said she comes to the site to learn about the war. Her son asks questions about the site.

“It pulls people in,” she said.

Lack of Respect

But many visitors are shocked to see hundreds of people wading in the fountain. They feel it shows a lack of respect. People who work at the site agree.

“This is a memorial; this is not a pool,” said Jasmine Daniel, 20. She runs tours at the site.

Finding a balance between respect and recreation is a challenge every year, said Jenny Anzelmo-Sarles.She works for the National Park Service.

“We hope that members of the public will choose to respect these sacred places and the people they honor,” she said.

About 16 million people served in the U.S. forces during World War II. More than 400,000 died.

Veterans and their families have complained about the wading. Many people got upset two years ago, after a photo showed a man changing a child’s diaper on the edge of the pool.

Living in Freedom

Julian Bonder studies the role of memorials in public life.

“Memorials are related to life,” he said. If dipping one’s feet in the water makes a person feel alive, Bonder doesn’t see that as a lack of respect.

“How do we honor those who gave their lives for us to enjoy our lives in freedom?” he said.

Bonder said it’s important to remember that the freedom they fought for gives others the right to act how they choose.

April 29, 2017 | Comments »

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