He Held My Hand

Submitted by Laila H. of California

"When I was in my mid-twenties and living in Mount Pleasant, I loved taking long runs to and then through the National Zoo. My goal was to run from home, through Rock Creek Park, all the way to the panda exhibit. Seeing the pandas was my long-run reward.

When I was 26 and visiting Seattle, I met a very smart and charming man at a Christmas party. We hit it off, and while chatting, I shared how much I loved running to and through the National Zoo to see the pandas. He had never seen pandas in real life and joked that he had to come visit me in DC (to see the pandas, of course). We exchanged numbers, but since we lived in two different Washingtons, I didn’t think much would come of it.

I was pretty smitten though, and apparently, so was he. Just a couple of weeks later, the very smart and charming man booked a trip to DC to “visit a friend.” Since he was in town though, he wanted to know if I still wanted to show him the pandas. And of course, I said yes.

We walked to and through the zoo and watched Bei Bei the panda rolling around in the grass. We laughed a lot, and he held my hand.

The attached picture is our first picture together as a couple. Several years later, we still have the pandas from the National Zoo to thank for bringing us together."

Image courtesy of Laila H.

The Panda Memories Project

In September 2023, the Zoo invited members of the public to share their favorite moments with Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, Xiao Qi Ji and the rest of the pandas that have called Washington D.C., home. Here are their stories.