There was a fire alarm at 3am. The alarm is a loud continual beeping accompanied by a blinking light in several places in each hall way. After checking our 5 rooms, my partner and, along with very sleepy Lancers went down the stairs and out to the side of the building. We made our way to the busses where roll call was taken. Missing children were identified and checked on within minutes and simultaneously, we were allowed back into the hotel. There was a smoke detector on the 4th floor that was activated by what they suspected was a smoker. None of our Lancers are on the 4th floor.
The plan was to explore Baltimore’s Ft. McHenry and the Inner Harbor; the Baltimore Aquarium followed by Sabatino’s for dinner.
Breakfast was at 7:30 and consisted of scrambled eggs, bacon, hash browns, French toast and a variety of juices, coffee and tea. The ballroom is big enough for the whole group, so Mr. Soucy is able to give his morning briefing knowing he has all present. Lancers and FOMs alike check in for breakfast. With a group this large there are often murmurs even when quiet is asked for. Mr. Soucy does not speak over these young adults, rather he waits for them to quiet. And quiet they do.
Busses were loaded for the short ride to Ft. McHenry and we arrived just after 9. The guard asked me how many we were as we walked through the door, and I said “just about 290″. It never fails to impress. The rangers, for their parts, were full of historical information about the fort that started its famous history of defense in the war of 1812 during which Francis Scott Key was inspired to write the Star Spangled Banner and was utilized and fortified in the 1830′s and during the civil war. There are cannons that are still shot off during the summer months as part of the educational series the rangers put on for various scout or school groups. The original cross beams in which the flag pole sat were discovered by archeologists and are displayed in one of the barrack like structures that make up the inner fort. The fort is in the shape of a star to allow for five distinct vantage points to assure that should the British (or any future enemy) try to attack Baltimore, they will be seen and stopped. It was effective. The British were stopped and an American flag was raised the next day to signify the Americans success in keeping the ships out of the harbor. The video explaining what led up to the battle was available for viewing but only on a small TV as the large movie projector has not been working since last December.
One of a series of Senior pictures was taken at the flag pole while other Lancers continued exploring and dropping some of their money at the gift shop on souvenirs. Each event will be the last for the seniors – the last home game, the last Derry Holiday Parade, the last trip to Disney…and each will be commemorated by the FOM photographers as well as the many chaperones whose children are among them.
We loaded the busses which took us from the outer harbor to the inner harbor. We were dropped off in front of the aquarium and had a meet time of 2:15 for entrance to see the 3D movie called Planet Earth, and the many exhibits, including dolphins, sharks and jelly fish. This meant time for lunch and time for exploring. Many Lancers headed to the harbor area and the selections there: Hard Rock Cafe, (where $17, including tip will get you a ‘really good’ burger, fries and two coca-colas), Dick’s Last Resort, (where I’m told the waitresses are intentionally rude, but one group of fellas was able to charm their waitress into smiles and jokes), Potbelly Sandwiches, (which doesn’t evoke the best of images but may be great), Chipole Mexican Grill, Phillips Seafood, Blu Bambu, (a sushi/Asian food restaurant), Panara Bread, among others. Some appetites were satisfied, other appetites were sated. Some folks went to the other section of the harbor where the 50 degree sunny weather allowed some street performers to entertain. The group enjoyed a young woman who road on a unicycle while juggling various things; pins, balls and back to the pins again. They got a taste of inner city life when a couple of hecklers wanted to get into the act; the police came and one was arrested. One girl in the audience said she wanted to be back in her small town, with it’s apple orchards; but with each experience comes growth. I believe the travels the band and color guard participate in are one of the best parts of that growth.
Other Lancers spent time at the Barnes and Noble reading magazines, finding books the are prequels of favorite series or other books that might appeal to them. They bought journals, magnets and coffee,taking their purchases out into the sunshine to enjoy. Still others went to clothing stores nearby or the candy stores that are always per leant in this kind of environments. They were happy to be here, excited about what is to come tomorrow and ready for the honor of playing for the president.
The aquarium didn’t disappoint. The sharks were fierce, the jellyfish amazing, the penguins cute, the dolphins play full and the movie interactive, alternating spraying the audience with water as a whale slaps into the water or bubbles as the seals swim among the sculpin and blowing cold air as the scene changes to the cold ocean. We had 3 hours to explore the aquarium before meeting up once again as a bus, counting off and walking up the restaurant, Sabatino’s in Baltimore’s Little Italy.
Dinner was pre-ordered; and that well oiled machine that is the executive board of the FOM had printed up cards with the dinner order for each student with their name, number and bus assignment on it, giving each of the bus captains their stack to hand out to the Lancers. The waitresses took each persons slip of paper and like one big family we passed salads, chicken parmesan, ziti with meatballs, fettucine and bread around table tops of eight to ten people. Dessert was, of course, spumoni, to most everyone’s delight.
We walked back to the busses as the streets are too narrow for the busses to come to us. The temperature had dropped and it helped to warm those with short sleeve shirts or thin jackets that we walked at a brisk pace. We were soon on the busses, warm and accounted for heading back to the hotel. We listened to the Patriots pull ahead on the ride to the hotel courtesy of our bus driver, also a Patriot fan. We agonized as the Ravens pulled ahead while being briefed on the next days events and lamented the loss as the bed checks were made. There were many study guides, note sheets and much quizzing going on as I went from room to room. These band members and color guard are grounded in that they realize Wednesday will come and exams will happen.