HARTFORD â€“ Sixteen people learned about the liberty bell and Connecticutâ€™s charter oak alongside State Rep. Gary Byron of the 27th district Wednesday.
Byron invited his Newington constituents on a tour of the State Capitol and Legislative Office Building, an opportunity to share history and the law process in which he partakes.
â€śItâ€™s a two-prong experience, with a historical lesson from our tour guide and how a bill becomes law from my legislative perspective,â€ť he explained.
Newington residents Richard and Nicole Condon are semi-retired, so they took the afternoon to experience their state how they never had before.
â€śI was curious to see the capitol. I figured we live around here, why not take advantage of this?â€ť Nicole pointed out.
Just before they stepped onto the concourse which takes visitors between both buildings the group stopped at an area honoring members of the armed forces who lost their lives in battle.
Richard paused to admire a medallion representing a veteran, who like himself, had served in the Air Force.
â€śDuring the Vietnam War, 1963 to 67,â€ť the Newington resident said, adding that it was his first time at the capitol.
â€śItâ€™s interesting. I donâ€™t know enough about how government works here. Sometimes I donâ€™t think it works at all.â€ť
Robert Ferris took the opportunity to drill Byron with questions along the tour, specifically about the legislative process, dealing with pressure from lobbyists and deciding how to vote.
â€śSome of the things that happen here are such a waste of money,â€ť Ferris said. â€śThings discussed by committees donâ€™t always make it into bills. Iâ€™m learning that Iâ€™m disappointed with our government more so than I was before.â€ť
Byron briefed the group before and after Wednesdayâ€™s tour.
â€śI donâ€™t work for the people up here,â€ť he said, gesturing around a committee meeting room, referring to fellow elected officials. â€śI work for you. You can hire me and you can fire me.â€ť
Tour guide Paul Hensler guided visitors up and down marble staircases and beneath majestic cathedral ceilings adorned by gold-accented pillars and arches. When they reached the top floor, faces peered up at the inside of the landmark dome. Just below it, a replica of the stateâ€™s famous guardian angel statue.
â€śThe original statue was on top of the dome,â€ť Hensler said. â€śWe lost it because of the violent hurricane of 1938.â€ť
It didnâ€™t vanish during the storm, he clarified, but was taken apart in pieces beforehand as a safety measure. Years later, it became donated scrap metal.
The group also made stops at statues of state hero Nathan Hale and heroine Prudence Crandall. Before entering the Senate Chambers, visitors walked around a statue of Governor William Buckingham, who served during the Civil War.
Although his family enjoyed the history lesson, nine-year-old Mario MacFarlene was most captivated by the buildingâ€™s ornate architectural elements.
â€śHe wants to be an engineer so he likes the construction,â€ť said his grandmother Paula Pelkey.
Mario had a half-day from school and spent it with his grandparents, who live in Newington.
â€śItâ€™s nice,â€ť he said of the tour. â€śWorking here would be working a lot.â€ť
Erica Schmitt can be reached at 860-801-5097, @schmittnbh or email@example.com.