The residents of Misrata came out as families _ fathers with their young daughters, mothers with their toddler sons in tow _ to survey with their own eyes what had become of their city.
By word of mouth, they descended on Tripoli Street, the epicenter of the punishing fight between ragtag rebels and forces loyal to Libyan ruler Moammar Gadhafi who were besieging the city.
Rebels expelled Gadhafi's forces from the western city after fierce street battles, pushing the front lines in a sweeping arc around the port city and giving civilians much-needed breathing room.
People picked up baby strollers and carried them over the piles of shell casings littering the pavement, steering them around the sand berms and burnt-out tanks blocking the sidewalks.
They snapped pictures of their children in front of the shattered facades, and surveyed a curbside collection of shrapnel and ammunition Gadhafi's troops used in their failed attempt to pound the city into submission.
At heart, they were paying their respects to their brothers, their sons, their neighbors who had died defending Misrata. But they were also, quite simply, reclaiming their city.