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Students return from D.C. with ‘Potomac Fever’

Members of the Shelter Island Class of 2020 in Washington, D.C.

Twenty-two Shelter Island juniors have been infected with Potomac Fever. No, not a new tick-borne disease, but the affect on one’s heart causing a life-long love of Washington, D.C.

The students, along with teachers Peter Miedema, Sean Brennan and Jimbo Theinert, left the Island April 8 for a trip to the nation’s capital. Lucky enough to see Washington arrayed for the annual Cherry Blossom Festival, the young people were enchanted.

“It was snowing cherry blossoms,” Lyng Coyne said.

On the way to Washington, the group made a stop in Philadelphia long enough to visit the Liberty Bell and have lunch before completing their trek to Washington.

“We learned a lot and saw a lot you might not ordinarily get to see,” Isabelle Topliff said.

“It’s one of those trips you’ll never forget,” Lucas Quigley-Dunning said.

What particularly wowed the Islanders was Arlington Cemetery, not simply to observe the changing of the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns, but to have a wreath bearing ribbons with the names of American Legion Mitchell Post 281 and the school brought to the Tomb. The Island’s veterans paid for the floral wreath.

Guards at the Tomb of the Unknowns place a wreath purchased by Island veterans and bearing ribbons identifying both American Legion Post #281 and Shelter Island School.

Maria Carbajal joined Mr. Quigley-Dunning and Ms. Coyne in presenting the wreath to the military personnel who placed it at the Tomb.

“It made you feel you were part of history,” Mr. Quigley-Dunning said.

“Really powerful,” Ms. Coyne characterized the experience, noting she had an uncle who fought in World War II.

The group visited the graves of President John F. Kennedy and his brother, Senator Robert F. Kennedy, both murdered by assassins. Another memorable stop in Arlington was the grave of former Islander Admiral Harold E. Shear, who rose to be vice chief of Naval Operations during a 42-year military career.

Visits to the White House, the Lincoln Memorial, the Vietnam Memorial, the World War II Memorial and the FDR Monument were also on the agenda.

You can almost see parts of history that took place everywhere you look, Mr. Miedema said.

Although the students have known one another since early childhood, travelling out of town together for a few days was a new experience and brought them closer together, Ms. Ling said.

“It taught us more about ourselves,” she added.

“It was really good living in a hotel with friends,” Mr. Quigley-Dunning said.

“Our kids got it,” Mr. Miedema said. They had studied and understood the traditions that they now saw with their own eyes.

“The kids really had a great time,” Mr. Brennan said. “It was everything you thought it would be and more.”