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Oklahoma City National Memorial


Where Gumbo was #525

Gumbo was visiting the site of the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing in 1995, now a National Memorial.  Congratulations to George G. Marilyn Jones and JOnathan L, who recognized where Gumbo was!

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Visiting a site like this always leaves me with mixed feelings.  Predominately it greatly saddens me to think of the magnitude of human suffering and loss.  But it is also encouraging to see how the community came together after the attack, rebuilt, and created a lasting memorial.

I can still vividly remember that day -- April 19, 1995.  I was at work at my first job in California when the news flash came in. The bombing by an explosive left in a rented truck destroyed a federal building in the heart of an unassuming midwestern city, and with the destruction and death, a sense of loss and hurt.  It was clearly an act of terror, but who, and why?   The killer turned out to be an American citizen, Timothy McVeigh, who was arrested, put on trial, and executed in 2001 for his hideous crime.

People who live in Oklahoma City were perplexed by the act.  They don't consider themselves noteworthy or "special" by any stretch of the imagination.  Why them?  Why the 168 bodies recovered at the site -- those of friends, family and fellow citizens.   It was the largest act of domestic terror until 9/11/2001.

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I'm not going to pretend to understand how a twisted mind like McVeigh's works, but I am here to share with you know how the citizens of Oklahoma City and the nation responded.  It was with an outpouring of sympathy and love, and a desire to help.

A task force to consider a Memorial was established, comprised of survivors, families of those who were killed, first responders, and volunteers. What you visit today is one of the hundreds of options for a Memorial the task force looked at.  I think they choose wisely.

The Memorial is created in two parts.  1) The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial was dedicated on April 19, 2000, the fifth anniversary of the bombing, by President Bill Clinton.  2) Less than a year later, President George W. Bush dedicated the Memorial Museum -- the second portion of the memorial -- on Presidents’ Day, February 19, 2001.

My wife and I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial for the first time a few weeks ago, on a crisp spring Sunday morning.  Because of time constraints, our visit was limited to the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial.   It is a beautiful and tranquil space, an environment for quiet reflection.  It honors the dead, the survivors, and the millions of people whose lives were changed on that April morning.  The Memorial is open to all 24 - 7 - 365.

Screenshot 2023-04-02 112651(Layout of the Oklahoma National Memorial grounds)

The Outdoor Memorial can be considered as having several distinctive regions, which makes discussing the site a little easier and clearer.

1) Gates of Time

As you enter the memorial grounds you will likely pass through one of two immense black gates. You will walk under the following inscribed words:

"We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity".

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The eastern 9:01 Gate represents the last minute of innocence for Oklahoma City.  The western 9:03 Gate, the minute after the attack, marks a City forever changed.

04 OK National Memorial(The 9:01 on the east gate is in shadow)

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06 OK National Memorial(The 9:03 West Gate and Reflecting Pool)

2) The Reflecting Pool

Between the Gates of Time sits the Reflecting Pool, on what once was NW 5th Street. McVeigh drove down NW 5th Street to access the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building to place his explosives.

07 OK National Memorial(The Reflecting Pool)

3) Survivor Wall

The Survivor Wall adjoins the East Gate and holds the names of over 600 individuals who were within a one block radius surrounding the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, and who survived the attack.  The Survivor Wall is part of the Federal Building that was not destroyed in the explosion.

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4) The Field of Chairs

The Field of Empty chairs lies within the footprint of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. There is one empty chair for each of the 168 victims, each etched with one victim's name.  The chairs are arranged in a pattern of nine rows, according to the floors of the building the bodies were found on.  Large chairs represent adults and the 19 smaller chairs the children who were murdered that day.

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I don't think anything has more impact in this memorial than the Field of Empty Chairs, especially the small chairs representing the kids.

5) Survivor Tree

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At the promontory of the memorial stands a large 100 year-old American elm. Today it is known as the Survivor Tree.  In 1995 the tree stood in a gravel parking lot, between the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and the Journal Record Building (where the museum is now housed).  The tree was severely damaged by the bomb blast and was not expected to survive. However, there it stands and continues to grow, symbolic of the spirit of the community.

6) Rescuers Orchard

The Rescuers' Orchard honors the 12,000 workers that participated in all aspects of the rescue effort.

15 OK National Memorial(Part of the Rescuers' Orchard)

7) Memorial Fence

A special section is the Memorial Fence, originally used to limit access to the 20 block area surrounding the bomb blast.  That fence became the site of a spontaneous memorial.  Individuals left small items that helped them cope -- a toy, a doll, a plaque, or photo.  Over 60,000 items have been removed from the fence and placed in the archives of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.  Items are still being left on the fence, like these which we saw when we visited:

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8) Children's Area:

The Children's Area is close to the Museum Entrance on the west side of the Memorial.  Children from around the country sent gifts of hope and encouragement in the form of cards, letters, and tiles.  A small wall displays an assortment of tiles designed by children from across the country.

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9) The Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum:

The Memorial Museum is housed in the former Journal Record Building, built in 1923.  The building withstood the bombing, although it was damaged.  The Museum provides an interactive self-guided tour which looks to be quite informative.  Check online for ticket purchase options.  It is best to have a ticketed entry time purchased before you visit.

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Our visit to the museum had to be deferred to a future visit.  I'd like to see the displays some day.

I end this post with a few other items adjoining the memorial site.  One was this attractive clock, a gift from two corporations...

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Never forget to look at the art under your feet.

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  • Screenshot 2023-04-02 112651

Twitter: @DrFumblefinger

"We do not take a trip, a trip takes us".  John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charlie

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