When we started this 50 states adventure, our focus was to make sure we made a truckload (or vanload) of memories before the kids were grown, but we also had a larger goal in mind. We wanted to make sure that the kids had a broad range of experiences to draw upon, a sense of adventure, and knowledge of the best parts of America, and the not-so-great parts as well.
Taking that into consideration, I guess our day was a success.
A quarter mile walk from our hotel was the Oklahoma City Memorial. I expected that our walk through the outdoor memorial would spur some discussion about militia, politics, gun control - much the way it did the night before, when I told the kids we were going.
But it didn't.
There was no discussion whatsoever. It was just quiet, and teary and unbelievable.
I've been to several memorials in my day, but nothing has ever hit me like this. We stood between the 9:01 entry gate and 9:03 exit gate. There amongst the field of empty chairs and the reflecting pool, we stood in the moment of 9:02 - the moment the explosion took 168 souls, the moment 800 people were injured, the moment our history changed forever.
The memorial is so thoughtfully laid out, 9 rows of chairs representing which floor each person was on during the moment of the attack. Most of the second row is filled with tiny chairs - babies under the age of six. Even little Yoda was quiet when she followed us through the rows. She stopped at one of the small chairs, it belonged to a little girl named Ashley. I couldn't stop the tears.
The memorial wall was filled with mementos and notes from friends and families of the victims, the children's wall covered with tiles from young well-wishes from around the country. Our whole family was absolutely morose by the time we reached the front of the museum. Punk could not bring himself to write or draw anything on the slate bricks leading to the door (there is colored chalk available to leave a note, a prayer, or whatever you'd like as a temporary addition to the memorial). We couldn't go into the museum - we just couldn't. If we had, we would have heard the blast, visited a room that recreates what one of the rooms was like seconds after the blast, seen photos in a mausoleum type tribute to all of the victims. We were already heartbroken, so we decided on turn back to the hotel.
We packed up the van, and headed to our next stop.
We'd planned ahead. After a rough morning, we took off towards the happiest stuff on earth - at least if you're Punk. Our oldest child is absolutely in love with soda of all types. So we took a slight detour to Arcadia, OK, home of POPS restaurant and store.
We didn't stop for lunch, just for drinks, but it still took us quite awhile. Pops has over 600 varieties of soda for sale - including some you can't imagine ever letting pass your lips (like cat urine and swamp water). We each selected a bottle and toasted outside the store. Yoda insisted on tasting them all and promptly spit each one out.
Two hours later we were in Witchita, Kansas.
I am starting to feel slighty guilty for making these towns an afterthought to our cross country ventures.
First Oklahoma City, now funky little Wichita. We ordered pizza from Picassos, with slices bigger than our heads, went for a walk in charming Old Town Marketplace where we nabbed gellatos from Cafe Moderne, and played in the neon-lit fountains until the sun set behind us. Kooka danced in the fountains and threatened us all with soggy hugs, Punk dove right in as well, and Yoda let us swing her feet through the fountains. Maybe next year she'll be braver.