May 23rd ~ Oklahoma City, OK
Declared by Yelp a “Top 10 Museum in America”, I was anxious to see it for myself. Even knowing that it would bring up deep-seated sadness for all the lives lost, I knew that I had a lot to learn about the day that started like any other day…
What happened here?
Some of you may be too young to remember the event itself, so here is a brief explanation of the second worst act of domestic terrorism to ever occur in our country (second only to 9/11).
“The Oklahoma City bombing was a domestic terrorist truck bombing on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, United States on April 19, 1995. Perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the bombing happened at 9:02 am and killed at least 168 people, injured more than 680 others, and destroyed one-third of the building. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 other buildings within a 16-block radius, shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings, and destroyed or burned 86 cars, causing an estimated $652 million worth of damage.” ~ Wikipedia
We started our visit across the street
St. Joseph’s Old Cathedral is just across the street from the National Memorial. On the corner is a statue called, “And Jesus Wept”. He has his back to the tragedy, and holds his face in deep sorrow. The pillars surrounding the statue represent the children and unborn babies that died as a result of the bombing.
The Outdoor Memorial
The large entrance wall sets the tone for the memorial, engraved with the following words:
“Welcome here to remember those who were killed, those who survived, and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.”
Upon entering, you are in front of a shallow Reflecting Pool that was once NW Fifth Street. At either end are the large Gates of Time. At the far end engraved on top is 9:01. This represents the moment of innocence before the blast. Directly overhead was 9:03; the moment healing began.
Off to the side along the green grass(in between the two pillars) is the Field of Empty Chairs. The blast occurred at 9:02. They are arranged in nine rows that reflect the floor where each victim was working or visiting. Each of the 168 chairs are etched with the name of a person killed. The 19 smaller chairs represent the children. The field matches the footprint of the Murrah Building.
The Survivor Tree
Going into the museum
Although this is a National Memorial Museum, our Senior Pass was not accepted for admission. Seniors pay $12 and adults pay $15.
The museum covers two floors and is divided up into “chapters” which make it easier to follow the flow of what transpired that day and the days/years that followed. There are some wonderful short films that introduce you to many chapters.
- A day like any other – Begins in the orientation theater
- History of the site – Explores the Murrah building, neighborhood and rise of extremism in the USA
- A meeting, recorded – One of the most interesting exhibits to me. There was a meeting across the street to determine water rights. It was being recorded and captured the sound of the explosion.
- Confusion & Chaos – Witnesses frantic first impression, incredible stories from rescuers and survivors
- World reaction, Rescue & Recovery – News coverage and stories of heroism
- Watching & Waiting – Rescue and recovery goes on for 16 days as some wait for answers. Finally a ceremony marks the end of recovery efforts.
- Gallery of Honor – Photos and precious artifacts are gathered as well as videos from family and loved ones tell personal stories about the 168 who were killed.
- Impact & Healing – To contend with their grief, many turn to their faith. The Survivor Tree becomes a symbol of strength.
- Investigation, Evidence & Justice – This tracks the trail of how Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were caught and convicted. McVeigh was executed in 2001, and Terry Nichols is serving life in prison with no possibility of parole.
- Responsibility & Hope – A new sense of strength, peace and resolve with an expanded mission to counter violence with vigilance.
Here are some of the pictures I took inside the museum, but they can not begin to do justice to how well this museum is put together.
As we were leaving the museum, a moment of levity helped lighten the mood. This friendly duck was trying to come in the revolving door.
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful that this community was strong and worked together to rebuild. This memorial is a testament to their resilience and their hope for the future.