"Someplace Special"

To be a Washingtonian is to know at a very early age that you live someplace special.

I learned that truth as a child born at the dawn of World War II. My earliest recollections are of machine guns stationed on the top of the U.S. Weather Bureau at 24th and M streets in Northwest and of air raid warnings. I remember the neighborhood warden - Mr. Christmas was his name - prowling the streets to make sure we drew our curtains so that our house lights wouldn't give us away to enemy planes - German or Japanese or both - that were supposedly coming to get us because we were in Washington, D.C., an important target.

Even as a 5-year-old, I knew from listening to grown-ups that a man called the president lived in a big white house down the street. That made where we lived important. The White House was eight blocks east of our Foggy Bottom neighborhood. We saw it all the time.

There were gun emplacements near the Lincoln Memorial. We saw those, too, during Sunday walks with our father. The Mall itself was about a 15-minute walk from our home. Soldiers, the war and stuff like that dominated the talk that swirled around us kids. Signs of the military and the powerful people who ran things were, like the air, everywhere, because we lived in Washington, D.C. It has been always thus.

And let me pause to thank the originators of this contest for using the term "Washingtonians." We were raised to describe ourselves that way. "District of Columbia," "D.C.," "The District" - those phrases never passed our lips.

To be a Washingtonian is to always be a curiosity wherever you are in the world. You are assumed to know inside stuff, political luminaries and, if you are an African American, Marion Barry.

-- Colbert I. King is a Washington Post columnist and grew up in the West End-Foggy Bottom neighborhoods.

By Washington Post staff  |  October 17, 2008; 3:35 PM ET  | Category:  Luminaries
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