Oklahoma National Memorial
May 26, 2003
Navigating Oklahoma City is quite easy. Even though a third of the state’s population lives here, it’s still organized and spread out in such a way that getting lost is difficult.
What began as an overcast day broke into a wonderfully cool beginning to summer. I checked out of my hotel and drove to the city center to spend some time at the memorial for the bombing in April of 1995.
I first wandered the outdoor symbolic memorial and pondered what I remembered. Looking at the rows of chairs that represented those who were killed, I crouched there and listened to the reflecting pool, its constant, peaceful gurgle.
Walking the perimeter, I was glad to see the museum center open. I paid the entry fee and took the elevator to the third floor to begin the self guided tour.
I’ve not been to a museum that used audio so effectively. It began as a snapshot of the day. Sounds of folks getting ready for work. Children eating breakfast and preparing for school. Just sounds and large backlit transparencies.
The next room had facts of the Federal Building itself; it’s purpose and construction.
A timed door opened and a room with a black glass wall awaited. After the small crowd filed in, an audio recording of a hearing from across the street began to play. After a few minutes of general courtroom setup, the explosion at 9:02 sounded. The black glass lit up to reveal photos of the 168 lost.
The doors opposite opened and rooms filled with the aftermath. Video clips from news sources, testimony from survivors and family members filled every plane. Artifacts of the devistation, simple things like a broken coffee mug, attributed to an individual, framed the walls.
I sat and watched a few of the programs and tears began to well up.
I began to think of the more recent attacks on the Trade Center. Of the images of war I’ve tried so hard to avoid.
The following rooms illustrated the outpouring of volunteers. The passion for finding survivors. Those who provided food to the rescue workers.
There was a room of prayer, with a church choir recording of the hymns sang at the funerals.
Another room, with the photos of the victims again, however with an artifact provided by friends and family providing some insight to the person. Some facet of their person.
I skipped the area with the trial. Skimmed through the parts about terrorism throughout the world, and found a corner outside to recompose myself.