A vaguely industrial multi-floor building. Loading docks here, single-story office wings there. A locked up entryway hidden behind overgrown trees, broken branches, knee high weeds, and piles of leaves. A kiln sitting amongst broken appliances line the pavement. Trailers full of tires and trash parked behind tall fences. The dirty outline of where the letters spelling “Hospital” used to be.
Forty-something years ago I was born in the hospital on Chanute Airforce Base in Rantoul, Illinois. The base closed in 1993. The hospital is now used as make-shift housing for migrant workers.
It’s a bit of my story.
It’s a bit of my parents’ story.
There’s nothing like being there. A cliche, yes. But true.
Being able to travel and visit a specific location can bring the history of that spot to life in a way that just reading about it can’t.
Walking from the hospital through the rest of what used to be the Air Force Base - I can better imagine what military life was like for my parents at ages 17 and 18. And then adding a newborn daughter.
Visiting places important to our national history - like Gettysburg - has helped me more deeply and completely understand what led up to the event taking place. I can then more easily see how it influenced the direction of our country afterwards.
There are more stories here than just my own.
Connect the Dots
To get to the former hospital we walked down Tuskegee Drive.
Our family’s first real encounter with the Tuskegee Airmen was in the movie Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. We met up with them again during a visit to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.
Now we learn that some of the Tuskegee ground support crew trained here before shipping off to Alabama.
Saving the World
When we can connect the dots of the same story across multiple locations, travel starts to feel like being in a National Treasure movie. We visit multiple locations, get little clues from each place, with a goal to figure out the mystery, solve the big picture, and save the world.