Friday, March 25: After our lunch at Zio’s Italian Kitchen, and after walking quite a distance, we finally arrive at our destination, The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. The memorial and museum commemorate the Oklahoma City bombing, a domestic terrorist bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Carried out by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the bombing destroyed one-third of the building, killing 168 people and injuring more than 680 others. 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: Oklahoma City bombing).
We first walk through Murrah Plaza, also known as the Memorial Overlook.
The grass lawn below was the playground for the children’s day care center. Nineteen children were killed altogether; 15 were in the America’s Kids Day Care Center.
From the Memorial Overlook, we can see the Field of Empty Chairs. The 168 chairs represent the lives taken on April 19, 1995. They stand in nine rows to represent each floor of the building, and each chair bears the name of someone killed on that floor. Nineteen smaller chairs stand for the children. The field is located on the footprint of the Murrah Building, according to the Oklahoma City National Memorial: Outdoor Symbolic Memorial.
The first Fence was installed to protect the site of the bombing. Almost immediately, people began to leave tokens of love and hope on the Fence. Those items now total more than 60,000 and are collected and preserved in the museum’s archives. Today, more than 200 feet of the original Fence offers the opportunity for people to leave tokens of remembrance and hope (Oklahoma City National Memorial: Outdoor Symbolic Memorial).
Saint Joseph Old Cathedral, the oldest parish in Oklahoma City, was significantly damaged during the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building. The Church has erected a memorial on this site titled “Jesus wept.”
Two monumental twin gates frame the moment of destruction – 9:02 a.m. – and mark the formal entrances to the Memorial.
The West Gate, below, represents 9:03 a.m, the moment lives were changed forever.
The East Gate, shown below, represents 9:01 a.m., and symbolizes the city’s innocence before the attack. Behind it is the Survivor Wall, the only remaining walls from the Murrah Building.
The reflecting pool occupies what was once N.W. Fifth Street. Its shallow and placid surface offers a place of quiet reflection.
In front of the Memorial Museum and the Journal Record Building is the Survivor Tree, an American Elm, which withstood the full force of the attack. Years later, it continues to stand as a living symbol of resilience. The circular promontory surrounding the tree offers a place for gathering and viewing the Memorial.
After visiting the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial, we go inside the Museum. As time is running out, Louise volunteers to walk back to pick up the car, so only Martha, Charlene and I see the amazing museum.
The Memorial Museum offers a chronological self-guided tour through the April 19, 1995 bombing, and the days, weeks and years that followed.
It’s interesting to read about our world in 1995. International headlines that year include the end of Bosnia’s civil war, a deadly Ebola virus outbreak in central Africa and the Sarin nerve gas attack on a Tokyo subway. In national headlines, prosecutors were making their opening statements in the O.J. Simpson murder trial and Major League Baseball players ended their 232-day strike on April 2. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed on April 18 at 4179.13.
At that time, interest rates hovered around 8.5%, a gallon of gasoline was $1.09, a U.S. postage stamp was 32 cents, and a new car cost an average of $15,500. The median household income was $34,076.
In popular culture, Forrest Gump won Best Picture at the Academy Awards Ceremony in March. On television, Americans were watching Seinfeld and ER and reading legal thrillers written by John Grisham. Personal hand-held video games, CDs, audio books and video store rental stores provided entertainment.
In 1995, coin-operated pay phones in public places were used more than cell phones. Electric typewriters and pagers were still in use, although desktop computers are becoming increasingly common. Microsoft introduced its first version of Internet Explorer. Amazon.com sold its first book. Internet usage among American adults was only 14%.
The bombers, McVeigh and Nichols, had expressed anger at the federal government’s handling of the 1992 FBI standoff with Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge as well as the 1993 Waco Siege, which began on February 28, 1993 when agents of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) traveled to Mount Carmel, near Waco. Cult members known as Branch Davidians lived within the heavily armed compound with leader David Koresh, who the Feds intended to arrest for firearms violations. Instead, a bloody gun battle began where four agents and six cult members were killed. After a 51-day standoff between federal agents and cult members, the compound burned on April 19, 1993. More than 75 people inside died, including children. Some blamed cult members and others blamed federal agents.
At the museum today, we go into a bland government board room. We sit and listen to the rather mundane proceedings — the official recording of an Oklahoma Water Resources Board meeting from April 19, 1995. The meeting, just across the street from the Murrah Building, starts at 9:00 a.m. A mere two minutes in to the recording, we are jolted by the explosion.
A clock is forever frozen in time at 9:02, the time of the explosion.
We leave the confusion inside the Oklahoma Water Resources Board meeting to experience the chaos outside. Here, we hear loud noises, people yelling, utter panic and confusion, and ambulances. We see helicopter news footage of the ravaged building taken at 9:13 a.m. – the first images broadcast. We’re able to experience those first frantic moments after the bombing through detailed artifact cases, murals and computer kiosks.
The whole experience is immensely disturbing and almost feels as if we were there.
Click on any picture below for a full-sized slide show.
Below is a photo of the building after the explosion.
Firefighters from only five blocks away were on the scene within moments. Other units were called in. Exposed power lines, leaking fuel, broken glass and debris littered many blocks and added to the danger.
After leaving this powerfully moving museum, we go outside to meet Louise with the car.
We return to our Airbnb house and get dressed to go to a Mexican fiesta put on by Rosie’s son and his wife. Here are the four of us in front of the fireplace.
We arrive at the Mexican fiesta, enticingly laid out on the table.
The bride-to-be and her fiance, Rosie and Jim, look very happy. Their wedding will be tomorrow evening.
Rosie poses with one of her beautiful daughters, Haley, and Rosie’s older sister, Janet. They are a family of beauties. 🙂
And finally, Rosie poses with her sisters, Ann and Janet.
It’s a fun gathering, with Rosie’s large family, Jim’s family and even the family of Rosie’s husband who died three years ago. Everyone loves Rosie, and I know she’s happy to have found someone as crazy about her as Jim obviously is. 🙂