Monday, May 5, 2008

A BLAST from Your Past?

April 19, 1995. At 9:01am, America felt fine. At 9:03am, America woke up to the realization that terrorists can and will strike at our heartland. Until that moment in Oklahoma City, we were complacent. We will never be complacent again, and …. We Will Remember!

The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum remembers and proclaims to the world what happened when Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols parked a Ryder Rental truck filled with 4800 pounds of explosives at the front door of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, then ran away like the cowards they were.

Half the building was blown away, 168 people died, including 19 children, babies, toddlers, and pre-schoolers. Families were left with one or more members suddenly gone, babies were orphaned, spouses suddenly bereft. Do you remember where you were and what you were doing at the time? No, most of us don’t, really, but we should.

There are two places each of must visit in our lives: the Vietnam Wall in Washington, DC, and the Oklahoma City Memorial. We saw the portable version of the Vietnam Wall as it visited Pahrump, Nevada, a few years ago, and we have now been inside the second most moving memorial in the country. We wandered through the exhibits with tears brimming, and hardly able to speak to each other, much less read aloud the placards at each site.

No photography was allowed inside the Memorial; everything in there was far too personal to the victims and survivors for the rest of us to snap photos to show to our friends. The only way to see this Memorial is to be there and to struggle through your own emotions.

Outside, of course, photography is allowed and encouraged. And we took pictures.

This is a small part of the 200 feet of the larger chain link fence left from the fence that surrounded the original blast site. For 13 years, people have left messages, toys, trinkets, anything to make a connection from themselves to this shrine. There was at least one American flag that we saw, next to a New York Police Officer's shoulder patch. The fence was moved to its current site by family members, survivors and rescue workers at the time of the groundbreaking for the Memorial. The items left on the fence now total over 60,000, most of them currently in the Memorial's archives.

These tiles are among hundreds incorporating drawings and comments from children across the country during 1995.
There are several chalk boards like these in the children's area, where kids (and others) can continue to share their feelings.

In the area that was once NW 5th street, this reflecting pool provides a calming and soothing contrast to the chaos presented withing the Memorial's museum.

At the two ends of the reflecting pool stand Gates of Time, one marked 9:01, the other 9:03. The first refers to the extraordinarily fine day that was beginning, and the innocence from terror all of us felt. The second, just two minutes away, refers to the moment we were changed forever, and the hope that came from the horror in the moments and days following the bombing.

In the grassy area that is the footprint of the destroyed Federal Building stand 168 chairs, one for each of the people who died in the blast.

Nineteen small chairs represent the children who were killed. They had been placed in two childcare centers on the building's second floor. Their bodies, along with six surviving children, were found in rubble in what formerly had been a basement area.

The Journal Record Building, directly across NW 5th Street from the Federal Building, was severly damaged by the blast. This south facing wall was left "as is" except for a few minor patches. it shows a mangled fire escape and a jagged roofline where cornices were blown off. The building has been totally remodeled otherwise, and now houses the Memorial and museum. One section of the second floor remains as it was at 9:03am that morning, so we could visualize the damage.

This message was spray painted on the Journal Record Building's south wall by one of the fire department rescue teams. It has been protected ever since, for our benefit. Remember, to see a larger version of any of these pictures, left click on the image one time. To get back here, simply click the "back" arrow at the top left of your screen.

Across the street, the Catholic Diocese of Oklahoma City erected this monument of their own. The statue is titled, appropriately, "And Jesus Wept."

This 90-year old American Elm stands in what used to be the backyard of a nearby home. The home itself had been destroyed by a tornado years before, but the tree survived. It took severe damage from the blast on April 19, 1995. but like the American spirit, it dug in and hung on, to now be a protected witness to what happened. It is called "The Survivor Tree," and serves as one of the primary symbols of the Oklahoma National Memorial, featured on brochures, coffee mugs, patches and other souvenirs.

We bought a patch as our souvenir, but we don't need souvenirs to remember this stop along ... Our Life on Wheels.


  1. Thank you for the excellent blog about this horrific event in our history. You're 100% correct about never forgetting what happened in Oklahoma City. How sobering.

  2. We had teh opportunity to see this awesome memorial in April as we traveled through OK. It is a sight that will get to your emotions! Your pictures are fantastic!


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