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It is almost dark as I make my way towards Arlington Cemetery in Washington DC to visit the grave of President John F. Kennedy.

The eternal flame sends a glow on the plaque  of the  president

The eternal flame sends a glow on the plaque of the president (Photos on this page by Michael Day)

As I enter through towering gates, a couple is leaving and I ask for directions.

“I’ve just come to visit the grave of my father,” the man explains, “but I think if you just go up the hill you will find it easy enough.”

By the time we finish talking, night has well and truly fallen but I think I might as well proceed with my mission.

The only relief from the pitch black is light cast by security lamps on the boundary wall. They illuminate   a section of white gravestones, creating a scene at once dramatic and poignant.

As I make my way up the curving drive, I realise I am the only person there. As I come to the top of the rise, there it is, the eternal flame blazing above what I know must be the grave of the fallen president.

On that hallowed piece of ground there are four slate grey plaques in a row.

The first one I look at has a crucifix engraved at the top, and it has the words John Fitzgerald Kennedy and the dates 1917-1963. Six white long-stemmed roses adorn the plaque.

Beyond the eternal flame, the mansion and the moon

Beyond the eternal flame, the mansion and the moon

The same number of roses is on the plaque next to the president’s, one of similar design and which carries the name of the president’s widow,  Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis and the dates 1929-1994.

Under the flickering light of the flame it is difficult to discern the engravings on the  two smaller plaques but with the help of my camera’s light I slowly become aware of the heartbreaking nature of these little graves, the resting places for  babies who had died shortly after birth. One plaque is for the Kennedys’ son, Patrick Bouvier Kennedy, who lived so briefly in August 1963, and the other simply reads Daughter, and August 23 1956. It is time for a prayer for their souls.

From the hallowed ground is a view to the Washington Monument and , to its right, the dome of the Capitol

From the hallowed ground is a view to the Washington Monument and , to its right, the dome of the Capitol

Being there alone is a moving, and emotional experience, yet inspiring too. Turning from the graves and looking back down the hill, I see in the distance the shining dome of the Capitol building and the arrow head of the mighty Washington Monument.

When newly wed, JFK and Jacqueline lived in this house in Georgetown, Washington DC

When newly wed, JFK and Jacqueline lived in this house in Georgetown, Washington DC

Select by choosing from geographical settings of travel stories by Michael Day, a travel writer based in Brisbane, Australia.


This is a sample of travel stories I have written on assignment as a travel writer, or when covering Asia for my newspaper, or as a freelancer. They have been published in newspapers, magazines and Web-based newspapers. (Yes, that is a real Oscar in my hands. Made out of genuine plastic.)