Sunday, June 12, 2016

Oklahoma City National Memorial Trip Report

April 19, 1995.  A massive explosion rocked downtown Oklahoma City at the Murrah Federal Building, the work of two domestic terrorists.  By the end of the day, 168 people were dead and more than 680 injured.  It was the worst attack on domestic soil up until 9/11.
Taken two days after the bombing
Cristi and I were in Oklahoma City that day, in our respective college classes.  In fact, Cristi was supposed to have been downtown volunteering at the Journal Records Building right across the street (what is now the Memorial's museum), but at the last minute chose to stay on campus that day.  It was a defining moment for us.  In the aftermath, our college group at church went downtown to help organize supplies needed for the search, relief, and cleanup effort.  We weren't allowed on-site, but being even on the periphery of the blast zone was surreal.  I couldn't understand how anyone could do something so evil.  Funny (not funny, actually) how Americans see the world much differently now in our post-9/11 world.  In those days that passed, though, I could not have been prouder of my state.  The out-pouring of compassion and assistance to the families was eye-watering.  Absolutely no looting took place downtown.  My favorite radio station, Rock-100.5 The KATT, interleaved news reports into two then-popular songs -- Live's Lightning Crashes and Eric Clapton's Tears in Heaven -- and played them over and over, bringing tears to my eyes as I recalled the horror of that day.

Cristi and I left Oklahoma City a year later and could never make it back to see the memorial once constructed and dedicated.  Finally, last summer, we made it.  And it was worth it!  The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum is extremely well done and a must-see for anyone that feels connected to those events on that fateful day, whether because you experienced it first-hand or you remember watching in horror as the scene burned into your TV screen.

As I mentioned, the Journal Records Building is now the Memorial's museum.  We started there, though only briefly.  Coming around the backside of the museum was like stepping into another world.  Unlike a busy downtown city block, it was serene.  There is a reflecting pool with "time gates" on either side.  One gate is inscribed with 9:01, symbolizing our innocence before the attack and the other with 9:03, symbolizing the time we were forever changed after the bombing.  The reflecting pool now lies in place of the street that separated the Journal Records Building from the Murrah Federal Building.

On the other side of the reflecting pool is a lawn of scattered chairs -- 168 of them, representing each individual that lost their life that day.  The chairs are organized in rows and columns, but the rows aren't all the same:  It's the same pattern as the massive hole in the building juxtaposed with where the individuals were killed in the building.  It's a powerful and symbolic reminder of the tragedy.
The Journal Records Building (Museum) is in the bottom of the photo.  The chairs are where the hole is, and the reflecting pool is where the street is.
We were there for only an hour or so, but the memorial drew us in. We strolled through every piece of it, reconstructing, remembering, imagining, contemplating.  It was powerful.

No comments:

Post a Comment