One of the very few bummers about living in Iowa is that we are too many hours from too many historical sites.

I wanted to be two places at once on Wednesday: Philadelphia, 1,000 miles east of Vinton; and Oklahoma City, 650 miles south and west.

In Philly, they dedicated the new Revolutionary War Museum (yes, it took that long to make a museum). In Oklahoma City, they gathered to remember the 168 people, including many children, who died in the bombing of the Murrow federal building on March 19, 1995.

Wednesday, April 19, was the original Patriot’s Day, the date that the first battle of what became the Revolutionary War took place. Immortalized by the poets Longfellow and Emerson, a handful of farmers faced the Redcoats near the Old North Bridge, a few hours after Paul Revere’s famous ride.

Emerson wrote:

“Here once the embattled farmers stood
¬†And fired the shot heard round the world.”
Longfellow’s poem includes these lines:
“It was two by the village clock,
When be came to the bridge in Concord town.
He heard the bleating of the flock,
And the twitter of birds among the trees,
And felt the breath of the morning breeze
Blowing over the meadows brown.
And one was safe and asleep in his bed
Who at the bridge would be first to fall,
Who that day would be lying dead,
Pierced by a British musket-ball.”
The original Patriot’s Day honors those men, and that day, April 19.
There are still Patriot’s Day celebrations in many places in New England. And since the Boston Marathon bombing, we as a nation remember that this race takes place on Patriot’s Day (although the celebrate it on whatever day that Monday falls on, not necessarily April 19). Mark Wallberg’s terrific movie captures the history of that day in Boston, and the efforts made by law enforcement to capture the two terrorists.
It’s merely a coincidence that April 19, Patriot’s Day, is also the date of the OKC bombing.
Every April 19 — like the memorial events that took place on Wednesday — is a reminder of how our nation began and why America matters.
“Come to remember; leave with resolve” is one of the mottos of the OKC Memorial.
I have sat there, in the middle of downtown OKC. It’s a peaceful, beautiful place, with a stone chair for each of the 168 who died there, and many tributes to the first responders who gathered to help the 600+ survivors and remove the bodies of those who died.
Later, after the 3,000 deaths of 9/11, the OKC survivors sent a cutting from their Survivor’s Tree to become part of a memorial in NYC.
While we should set aside 9/11 as a day of memorial to that historically horrible terrorist attack, our leaders should have been creative and original enough to call it something other than “Patriot’s Day.” We already have a Patriot’s Day and need to remember what that day means. Sept. 11 should be called something like “Heroes Day,” a day when we remember the victims and survivors of 9/11, and the first police officers, firefighters and other first responders who died trying to save others. We should also, on Sept. 11, encourage Americans to pursue those occupations, and also make sure we are all well aware of the challenges those jobs present.
But we’ve simply got to stop calling it “Patriot’s Day.” The people who died first for our country, near that little bridge in New England — as well as those who died or were changed forever on April 19, 1995 in OKC — deserve their own day.
See the complete Memorial service, and photos of the OKC memorial, HERE.
See the Revolutionary War Museum page HERE.