Sunday, April 10, 2011

OKC National Memorial & Museum

We are staying at the Elks Lodge in Midwest City, Oklahoma while exploring the Oklahoma City area. A must see is the memorial honoring those who were killed, those who survived and those who worked to rescue the injured after the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995 at 9:02 AM. The memorial and museum do an excellent job of telling the story of the tragedy of that day, the rescue efforts and the capture and conviction of the terrorists who carried out this terrible act of cowardice against innocent people. While most have a mental image of the destroyed federal building, a total of 312 buildings were damaged in the explosion, including 14 that had to be torn down.
At the entrance to the museum is the Children's Area that is backed with hand-painted tiles sent to Oklahoma City in 1995 by children to illustrate their caring. The surface has slates where visitors are encouraged to leave a message written with chalk. Above is the area with a group of students leaving their thoughts about their visit. The displays begin with a history of the building and surrounding area. You then enter a room where you hear a recording of a meeting that was taking place in a nearby building at the moment of the explosion. At the moment of the loud blast the lights flicker and go out and pictures of the 168 people, including 19 children, who where killed appear on the wall. The pictures above are from the Gallery of Honor which displays all those killed. A personal artifact from each family is also displayed.
The next gallery shows the chaos that followed during the rescue and police investigation that were happening immediately after the explosion. The statue (left) is based on the Pulitzer prize winning photo (right). Top left is the axle from the truck used to deliver the bomb. It was a key piece of evidence that lead to the arrest of the terrorists only two days after their cowardly act. Another area honors the efforts of the rescuers who came from all over the country and worked for weeks until the bodies of the last three victims were found on May 29. The flags displayed were flying on the building and in the plaza on April 19.
Other areas tell the stories of the 650 people who where injured and survived. The American Elm which was in front of the building and took the full force of the explosion has become the symbol of survival and has been named The Survivor Tree. The plaques on the only remaining part of the original building list the names of the survivors. Some of the survivor's stories are unbelievable. One woman was at a table in a meeting with seven others who literally disappeared before her eyes at the moment of the blast. All were killed. Another survivor had just finished her business and was in the back of the building at 9:02. She felt and heard the explosion but hailed a cab that took her to the airport where she got on a plane to Atlanta only to get off the plane to see the news of what had nearly happened to her. Among the stories are those who heroically aided workers until rescuers arrived. One was a blind man who worked in the snack bar who lead others through the blinding dust to safety.
The part of the memorial managed by the park service is on the actual site of the building and the street where the truck was parked. There are 168 chairs honoring the dead that are arranged by the floor they were on that day. There are five chairs on the side for those who were killed in other buildings and on the street. Each bronze and stone chair has a glass base engraved with the name of the victim.
The chairs of the 19 children are smaller than the others. Most of the children were in the day care center located on the second floor at the front of the building. The reflecting pool has a gate on each end. The west gate with 9:03 represents the moment of change and hope that came from the horror of the day and the bombing.

On the east end of the reflecting pool the gate has 9:01 to represent the innocence of the city before the attack. The lights under the chairs are beacons of hope. We returned to see the memorial at dusk and found it to be worth seeing at that time as the lighting helps set the somber mood that is appropriate for this memorial
Shown above is the outside of the west gate with a picture of the fence where people leave mementos of remembrance. All items are kept and catalogued. On the right is the Jesus Wept statue that is across the street. His back is turned on the site and his head is bowed with his hands covering his eyes. This memorial is very well done and is a great reminder that acts of violence against our government are really acts of cowardice against individuals.

2 comments:

Jim and Bobbie said...

Oh, Jim, what a wonderful post you composed today!!!!! It was very special. You should be proud. It was very meaningful.

Doing It On the Road(Part II) said...

Ditto, a great post with your voice clearly spoken!