ARLINGTON, Va. — As far as gifts to the United States go, New York's Statue of Liberty gets a disproportionate amount of attention. A gift from the French people, Lady Liberty welcomes all those who enter New York Harbor with an outstretched arm and her beacon of freedom.
But she doesn't have bells. And she doesn't offer a view as magnificent as the one atop the Netherlands Carillion in Arlington, Virginia. Visitors can gaze eastward in longing majesty across Washington's National Mall where the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument and the US Capitol building are aligned.
The Netherlands Carillion has reached the final stages of a massive renovation project which brought the addition of three new bells and the retuning of the existing bells, making it a 'Grand Carillion.'
"The sound of the bells were not that great anymore," said Andre Haspels, Ambassador of the Netherlands to the United States. "So we took off the bells and sent them back to the Netherlands to be renovated."
Out of tune. Like much of everything else in Washington. The Ambassador politely chuckled when I made this remark in front of him. I told him I didn't expect a comment on that, staving off a diplomatic incident in US-Dutch relations.
The Dutch are proud to highlight this unique gift presented to President Truman by Queen Juliana in 1952.
"To show our appreciation for what you have done during the Second World War and also after," said Ambassador Haspels.
As memories from the war-torn period fade and veterans of the conflict pass away, Ambassador Haspels knows it is symbols like the Carillion that keep the stories alive.
"This is for an older generation. My parents lived in the war. They were small children. My grandparents raised them during very difficult circumstances. That is not known anymore," said Haspels. "To the current generation, we need symbols to show this. The younger generation I want them to be aware, not only of our gratefulness but also our strong cooperation.”
The Carillion isn't just a steel observation tower. It's a work of art that creates music with its, now, 53 bells.
"It's a combination of two things," says George Washington Memorial Parkway Superintendent Charles Cuvelier. "It’s a tower which is designed out of steel to hold the bells. And it’s a musical instrument that’s played from a room that’s two-thirds of the way up. Think of a piano. But it doesn’t really look like a piano."
On a picture-perfect day in November when we visited with Cuvelier and Ambassador Haspels, the sweeping view of the National Mall was punctuated by a brief flyby of a helicopter that appeared similar to Marine One, the Presidential helicopter.
“It really embodies what we as a nation feel is important. The monuments and memorialization," said Cuvelier. "It's really a storytelling of our past. To honor the past, present and future."
The Ninja Warrior Course in Prince William County was funded by a grant from the Department of Defense.