Monday, October 17, 2011



Any trip to Oklahoma City has to include a visit to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum if for nothing else to be reminded that terrorism can come from within.  Although I am not a fan of the news media, after the memorial and museum were completed, Tom Brokow of NBC news said something to the effect that every citizen of this country should visit the memorial as a requirement for their citizenship.  Truer word couldn't have been spoken.

Our visit was a very moving experience, from the reflecting pool and Field of Empty Chairs, to the stories of those who survived and rescuers who arrived at the scene.  The magnitude of the explosion was unbelievable.  What was noticeable to me upon first entering the Memorial was the quiet. So hushed a place, yet many people milling about.  A National Park Ranger there to answer questions was speaking in hushed tones.  I don't frequent memorials, art exhibits or architectural tributes, so I don't know if quiet is common. I suspect that it is. But the hush here was quite simply a display of reverence. It was a show of respect for the people who died on what Oklahomans call sacred ground. It was a symbol of the return of dignity to the 168 people who were violently stripped of it five years ago.

Everywhere, there are memories of the dead.  The field of empty chairs are individual monuments. Large chairs for the adults; small chairs for the children. All memorialize those who lost their lives. Look to the west and there's the makeshift chain link memorial, an element of the Memorial originally constructed when the area was first sealed off five years ago. Today, people still adorn the fence with stuffed animals, teddy bears, flowers, pictures and other items.

Each of the 168 chairs symbolize a life lost, with smaller chairs representing the 19 childern killed.  Arranged in nine rows, one for each floor of the building, they placed according to the floor on which those killed were working or visiting. 

The Museum is in the former Journal Record Building, built in 1923.  This building was directly across the street from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and withstood the direct impact of the blast.  It was heavily damaged, but structurally sound.  The Museum takes you on a chronological, self guided tour through the story of April 19, 1995 and the days, weeks and years that followed the bombing.

At the time of the bombing at 9:02 AM, there was a Oklahoma Water Resources Board meeting taking place across the street from the Murrah Building.  This meeting was recorded.  As a visitor you enter into a reproduction of the meeting room and hear the meeting being called to order.  Two minutes into the recording you hear the explosion, all the lights go out and you hear the confusion in the room.  Them a translucent wall illuminates with photographs of the 168 persons who died that day.

You continue through the museum you follow a timeline of the events of that day and days that follow.  Exhibits include many eyewitness accounts from survivors and rescuers who tell of their experiences that day.  News footage of the carnage and the ensuing efforts to rescue people plays a part in the story.  There are displays of personal effects found in the buildings debris found while search teams were sifting for evidence.

This is a steel door that was taking from the Journal Record building across the street from the explosion.  Below are the tattered remains of mini-blinds taken from the same building.

This broken bell was also found in the rubble.  It's owner is unknown but shows his or hers sense of patriotism.  Below a no parking sign from a street nearby.

Many of the oral accounts recorded in the exhibit, recount the shear frustration felt by many of the first responders.  They had never experienced anything of this magnitude.  The photo below says it all.

After rescue efforts were completed, then the investigations began.  Many items of the evidence found in the building and the surrounding area are on display.

Licence plate from the Ryder truck rented by Timothy McVeigh.  Below is a wheel rim from the truck.  It was a hidden vin number from the rear axel of the truck which identified it as a Ryder rental truck rented by McVeigh.

On of the last displays in the museum are small boxes with photos of each of the victims.  Inside each box is something that belonged to each of them or represents who they were.  Notice the box of tissue on the bench.

This message was spray painted on the wall of the Journal Records Building by Oklahoma Bomb Disposal Unit 5.  The inscriptiong remains today.


I encourage everybody who reads this, to make it a point to visit Oklahoma City sometime in their lives.  As Tom Bokaw said, each citizen of this county should visit as a requirement of their citizenship.  I sure the same can now be said of Gound Zero in New York.  For me, the only place that stirs emotions in me to this magnitude is the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC.

1 comment:

Julie Camacho said...

Dad, Do you mean about 15 yrs. ago?