Places to Honor Everyday Patriots
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Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum
It's the utterly average nature of the scene that makes the tragedy of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building all the harder to bear. This is no battlefield where armies sought each other out, warriors challenging warriors. Here, at 9:01 a.m. on an April day in 1995, stood an Oklahoma City office building. People meeting, getting coffee, dropping off kids at the day care downstairs. By 9:03, it was a war zone, half the building ripped away by a domestic terrorist's truck bomb. The attack left 168 dead and a nation wondering whether anyplace was safe. It was a taste of 9/11 before we knew the term.
Today, the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum bears witness to the loss, but also testament to the resilience of the survivors. Glass cubes hold photos and personal mementos of the men, women and children killed. Sealed rooms preserve the setting as it looked after the explosion— desks covered in dust, clocks stopped at 9:02. Outside, 168 empty chairs glow each night. Standing as a symbol of the nation's recovery is the Survivor Tree, an American elm that took the blast's full force and lived on.
It's a different kind of victory we come here to celebrate. No generals became heroes in this place; no war was decided on this ground. But with the ghostly remnants of interrupted lives, we're reminded that people just like us sometimes die for their country, leaving everyday heroes for us to honor. (405) 235-3313; oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org
Click ahead for three more patriotic places.
Kansas City, Missouri: National World War I Museum at Liberty Memorial
Visitors enter this stunning site above a field of 9,000 red poppies; each flower represents 1,000 people killed in the Great War, for a staggering 9 million casualties. Inside, a film explores the complex global factors leading to World War I, and exhibits delve into life in the trenches and at home. After just a few moments, you'll be transported to a time when the rest of the world considered the United States its savior. (816) 888-8100; theworldwar.org
Indianapolis: Soldiers and Sailors Monument
Partly refurbished last year, Monument Circle's anchor honors Hoosiers who have served and given their lives in every conflict since the Revolution. The base holds the Col. Eli Lilly Civil War Museum; limestone sculptures depict a sailor, a cavalry man, infantry man and artillery man. Stone carvings reveal war's beginning and end, including an emotional return home. (317) 232-7615; visitindy.com
Independence, Missouri: The Harry S. Truman National Historic Site
The only U.S. president to use nuclear weapons returned from Washington, D.C., to life on a quiet residential street. Save for the book-filled study, much of the furnishings and decor look like that of a 1950s middle-class home—making even more poignant Truman's ability to walk away from power when his service was through. (816) 254-9929; nps.gov/hstr