Rising at 4:00 a.m. in order to have one last night in our own beds, we drove on empty road from the
Village to the Holiday Inn in Little Rock to meet the 6:30 a.m. deadline for luggage loading.

Our early arrival at 6:15 a.m. was an indication of things to come when we found that the bus had not
even arrived! Many Daughters had, however, and luggage, cases of water, bags, and ladies lined the
Holiday Inn driveway. Not to waste a single minute, we proceeded to the Waffle House for a quick
breakfast before board the bus for the long trip ahead. The bus had finally arrived by the time we
returned to the parking lot and loading had begun. What a sight! Ladies everywhere with pillows, bags,
suitcases, cases of water and soft drinks, and it appeared that the driver was pushing bags into the
belly of the bus on one side, only to have already loaded bags falling out from the opposite side.
Imagine just one Daughter's baggage for nine days with Sunday best, glitzy evening wear, hats, makeup
bags, and genealogical records, then multiply that times 40! Wait.....make that 39, for our own Daughter
Mary Reid Warner showed up with only one bag....it being equal in size to most of our carry-ons!

Finally, we were underway, 45 minutes late! On the road less than an hour, we had already eradicated
one huge bird, broken the bus windshield, established a food locker, later dubbed "the kitchen", and
begun to consume copious amounts of goodies. We soon discovered that we had Daughters with us
from Mississippi, Louisiana, Illinois, Oklahoma, and Kansas. Games, prizes, rest stops, and bad weather
kept the unruly and excited Daughters entertained until our late arrival at Pigeon Forge, Tennessee,
after 10:00 p.m., some 5 hours late. The next morning's one hour late departure required our bus driver
'Bob' to put the 'pedal to the metal' and we finally arrived in Washington, D.C. around 5:15 p.m.

The excitement of arrival gave us energy to unpack and go in search of food once again. After roaming
New York Avenue and requesting assistance from an accommodating 'local', we found a wonderful Thai
restaurant and ordered up our evening fare.

Afterwards, refreshed and happy to be off the bus, we walked the sidewalks among the beautiful
building and ventured down the pathways of the many memorials of this great city. We 'talked' our way
into the infamous New York Avenue Presbyterian Church and, to our surprise, were cordially given an
impromptu tour of the church where so many presidents have worshipped. As the sun set and the lights
came on, we continued our tour, in awe of the beautiful and stately DAR Constitution Hall proudly
waving red, white & blue banners from its Greek Revival columns, and welcoming the 113th Continental
Congress....the great circle of state columns around the WWII Memorial, resting at the foot of the
reflection pool, and nestled between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument....the silent
marching men of the Korean War Memorial surrounded by the ghostly faces of their comrades...and the
dark cold spans of marble at the Vietnam Wall covered with names of the fallen.

While these visions dominated our first night's dreams, nothing compared to the next day's entry into
the DAR Constitution Hall for the opening ceremony. As we sat in navy blue star-studded seats,
surrounded by tiers and boxes of Daughters from all across the continent and around the world, we
were face to face with golden eagles resting atop massive marble columns, on one side guarding the
compass insignia of the NSDAR and on the other side, the U.S. Great Seal.

At stage front, the President's own U.S. Marine Ceremonial Band commanded the attention of the
Daughters for the first evening's concert. When the trumpeter sounded the Assembly Call, Daughters
rose to their feet as white=clad pages marched down the center aisle carrying the State and Country
flags representing NSDAR around the world. While all eyes were focused on the procession, a giant
U.S. flag dropped from the ceiling and glided along a cable waving like a magnificent kite in a gentle
breeze, while red, white and blue balloons floated down to the stage.

From my personal viewpoint, J.P. Sousa's marches raised the hair on my arms and tears welled in my
eyes. This five-minute processional is now posted as one of the top memories of life, one I will never
forget, and one that I will cherish with a heart full of love for God Country and fellow Daughters.

This emotional experience did not diminish night after night as the Assembly Call of each ceremonial
band, the entrance of the President General and National Officers escorted by the procession of Pages
dressed in flowing white and carrying their flags high and proud, the surprising drop of "Old Glory" from
the ceiling, the Call to Order, the Invocation calling upon our God and praying out loud in a crowd of
3,000+, pledging our allegiance to the U.S. Flag, citing the American's Creek, and singing the National
Anthem, continued to move me to tears and fill me with patriotism for this great free nation.

So much to do and so little time to do it! There was great shopping in Constitution Hall....there were
breakfasts, lunches and teas....there were acceptance ceremonies, committee meetings and business
sessions....there were school suppers, tours, assembly of packages for the USS Stennis, and evening
programs with spectacular keynote speakers and entertainment. While half the events were at the
Marriott and half were at Constitution Hall, it was hard to keep a schedule when the bus didn't run on
time, or the police refused to allow the bus to stop at all!

It was a wonderful experience to meet so many Daughters from all over the U.S. and from our many
units overseas. Everyone was so gracious and cordial, especially when they spied my "First Time
Ribbon". I would encourage every Daughter to attend this event at least once in their lifetime. It is truly
one you will not forget. Your Akansa Chapter Daughters had a wonderful time and we were proud to
represent you at the NSDAR 113th Continental Congress!
THOUGHTS OF A FIRST-TIMER
on the
113TH CONTINENTAL CONGRESS
Daughters of the American Revolution
July 5-13, 2004

by survivor Sylvia Matthews