Organizers of tomorrow's dedication of the National World War II Memorial are expecting it to draw 200,000 visitors to the Mall and have planned for almost every contingency. But there will be no getting around long lines, traffic tie-ups and the vagaries of Mother Nature.
The advice of everyone involved in the preparations, from transit officials to tour guides, is the same: Use mass transportation; factor in extra time to get through security checkpoints, whether you have a ticket or are headed for a non-ticketed viewing area; wear comfortable walking shoes; and bring an umbrella -- for either the sun or the rain. Don't forget some bottled water and some healthful snacks, as well.
"It's going to be a really, really long day," said J. Chris Babb, co-owner of the Group Tour Co. in Washington, which has brought 205 World War II veterans and their caregivers from across the country to the dedication.
The 90-minute ceremony, beginning at 2 p.m., will be the culmination of years of planning for the nation's newest memorial, built at the heart of the Mall as a symbol of the defining event of 20th-century America. The memorial was sponsored by the American Battle Monuments Commission, which raised more than $179 million to cover construction costs and create a special maintenance trust fund.
The commission is sponsoring the dedication and will turn over management of the memorial to the National Park Service after the ceremony.
Although the commission distributed 116,000 tickets for three seating sections and designated two non-ticketed viewing sections for thousands more, very few spectators will actually get a view of the stage on 17th Street NW, said commission spokeswoman Betsy Glick. Most of them instead will see the ceremony on large video screens scattered throughout the Mall and the U.S. Capitol grounds. President Bush and several other dignitaries are scheduled to speak. Events earlier in the day, including an interfaith service at Washington National Cathedral and musical performances, also will be simulcast on the screens.
There will be ambulances along the Mall perimeter, nine medical stations staffed by doctors and nurses, paramedics patrolling on bicycles, and grief counselors to comfort those overcome by the emotion of the moment.
Spectators who need assistance should flag down one of the 1,200 uniformed volunteers who will be roaming through the crowds.
Beginning at 8 a.m., wheelchair-accessible shuttle buses will ferry ticketed spectators from the closest Metrorail stops to three entry points along the Mall. The free buses will then take ticketed spectators back to the Metro after the ceremony until 8 p.m.
Attendees without tickets will have to walk from the nearest Metro station.
A Smithsonian-sponsored event dubbed "Tribute to a Generation: The National World War II Reunion" also will take place on the Mall, between Third and Seventh streets, through the Memorial Day weekend. (See the Weekend section for more details on the Smithsonian event.)
For those who do not want to fight the crowds, worry about heat or rain, or wear themselves out walking, other large venues have been designated as viewing sites.
The Northern Virginia Visitors Consortium is distributing free tickets for sites that will provide seating and large-screen simulcasts. The 300 tickets for one of those sites, George Washington's estate at Mount Vernon, are gone. But as of early this week, tickets were still available for two other locations: the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center at Dulles International Airport (1,000 seats) and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria (700 seats). Each site has parking and is wheelchair-accessible.
"In addition to the simulcast, each venue will have live music and refreshments and VIPs to address the group," said consortium spokeswoman Olwen Pongrace. "We want veterans to feel special even if they don't get to the Mall: to go and watch, to be with each other and to be honored."
World War II veterans and their families may reserve tickets for the Udvar-Hazy Center or the Masonic memorial by calling 703-838-5005 or 800-388-9119, Ext. 3.
There is one more option: to view all the pre-ceremony and dedication events by lifting a remote control.
"Watch from home," Glick said. C-SPAN will broadcast the festivities live, starting at 10 a.m. with the interfaith service and ending at 3:30 p.m. after President Bush's remarks. The History Channel will televise the event live from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Other network and cable television stations will show highlights throughout the day, Glick said.
The Mall is open to the public, but dedication organizers are gently discouraging younger people from flocking to the event and adding to the crowds.
"Obviously, people who live in Washington get excited about this, but we are really trying to give priority to members of the World War II generation," Glick said.
Officials noted that the lines at security checkpoints will move faster if people do not bring many items with them. Among the prohibited items are alcoholic beverages, glass containers, backpacks, coolers, aerosols, powders, knives, and real or simulated weapons.
The American Battle Monuments Commission has posted a "Know Before You Go" link under the World War II Memorial category of its Web site, www.abmc.gov.