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Shutdown hits home for area native

By Autumn D. F. Hopkins

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kristi Frank grew up in the Charleston area. She now lives in Germany with her husband Flo, a German native. But she said she looks forward every year to their visit home to the States. This year their trip was expected to be very special.

However, the indefinite length of the government shutdown has threatened to ruin their plans.

This year's trip was scheduled to coincide with the couple's fifth wedding anniversary, in which they wanted to recreate a trip taken in 1981 by her husband's grandparents, Johann and Josefind Jund.

They wanted it to be a tour of the U.S. that encompassed 20 states and focused mainly around national parks and landmarks, all of which are now closed until Congress resolves the budget crisis.

Josefind passed away but Johann is 95 and fondly remembers his trip to the U.S. in 1981. Frank said Johann, who is too sick to travel, was almost as excited as the couple about their upcoming travel plans.

"From the first time I met him he has told these stories of their trip across the U.S. He loves to relive it and I had hoped to present him with an album of photos of Flo and me in the same places he and Oma visited years ago."

(Opa and Oma are German for grandfather and grandmother.)

"He loves America and Americans. He feels like the Americans liberated him from World War II," Frank said. "They probably saved his life. He tells stories of playing the accordion for the American troops after they invaded Germany."

The Franks have spent the last five years saving for this trip. Kristi Frank has spent the majority of the last two months stateside, meticulously recreating the itinerary of her in-laws. Now the shutdown has quite possibly ruined the plans.

"You know, I was a little worried," Frank said of her feelings Monday night as the shutdown loomed. "I had literally just finished planning the last park but I thought, 'They've [Congress] done this before, they'll figure it out.' I never dreamed they would just shut everything down."

Frank woke up Tuesday morning realizing that the trip may have to be canceled.

"I am so upset! I can't even talk to Flo. There is a six-hour time difference so he is at work. I can't even make any back-up plans."

She estimates they have already spent $2,500 on things like reservations, non-refundable park passes, and tickets to attractions, not to mention the time involved in planning a month-long nationwide tour.

"This has been my full-time job for the last few months," said Frank. "Ten hours a day I've sat at the computer planning every detail and location. I've spent hours looking at these photographs reading street signs, looking at landmarks and using Google maps to locate the exact spot where Oma and Opa took the original shots."

Frank has two albums full of her in-laws' original photos from their trip, each marked with specific addresses and directions she has compiled through her search.

In addition to the photo albums, she had compiled a thick three-ring binder with the couple's itinerary. It contained many details: from the stamps needed to mail postcards to a copy of her in-laws' original itinerary in German to maps with restaurant and attraction information.

Frank holds on to little hope that things will resolve in time for them to leave on Thursday. She's unsure how they'll spend their month in the U.S. if they have to cancel the trip.

"What are we supposed to do? Go to strip malls? Go to see movies? We had lots of special things planned and now the government has ruined it."

Their plans included exchanging new wooden wedding bands at Yellowstone National Park on Oct. 7, the date of their fifth anniversary.

"Flo has metal allergies and he's never been able to wear his wedding ring. We had these wooden rings custom made and part of our plan was to exchange them in the park. Sounds romantic, doesn't it?"

She hopes the House and Senate can come to a resolution to fund the government and end the shutdown before her husband arrives tonight so that they can maintain their original plans. But she has little faith in the process.

"They just don't care," she said of Congress. "They're still getting paid. They don't care about our plans."

Reach Autumn D.F. Hopkins at autumn.hopkins@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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