A couple of year ago we spent an afternoon and evening in Oklahoma City on our way home from a week in Texas. We were there a short time but had a nice visit. We also did something that touched our hearts. We went to see the Oklahoma City National Memorial Park. This is where the old Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was before it was bombed on April 19, 1995.
Timothy McVeigh parked a Ryder rental truck filled with explosives in front of the building and the resulting explosion killed 168 people and destroyed the entire north face of the building. On April 19, 2000 the fifth anniversary of the attack, the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial was dedicated. Today it consists of the following segments on 3.3 acres: The Gates of Time, Reflecting Pool, Field of Empty Chairs, Survivors' Wall, The Survivor Tree, The Memorial Fence, Rescuers' Orchard, Children's Area and the Journal Record Building.
It was all very touching, but I think the thing that was the hardest was seeing all those chairs. It was especially hard seeing the chairs of the 19 children who died that day. Their chairs were smaller and in a separate little section. It just broke my heart.
The one nice thing was the reflecting pool. A thin layer of water flows over polished black granite to form the pool, which runs east to west down the center of the Memorial on what was once Fifth Street. This wonderful and symbolic memorial is a place of quiet reflection, honoring victims, survivors, rescuers and all who were changed forever on April 19, 1995. I am glad we saw it, but felt very sad for all those lives lost.
While walking around the National Memorial we were able to see the survivor tree. This 100 year old tree not only survived the damage caused by the bomb, but also nearly being chopped down during the initial investigation when workers wanted to recover evidence hanging in its branches and embedded in its bark. The force of the blast ripped most of the branches from the Survivor Tree, glass and debris were embedded in its trunk and fire from the cars parked beneath it blackened what was left. Most thought the tree could not survive.
Almost a year after the bombing, family members, survivors and rescue workers gathered for a memorial ceremony by the tree noticed it was beginning to bloom again. The Survivor Tree now thrives, and the Outdoor Memorial design includes a mandate to feature and protect the tree. They even have an inscription around the deck of the wall that protects the tree. It reads “The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us”
National Park Service Rangers provide regularly scheduled Interpretive programs, discussing the site's significance, from Memorial Day through Labor Day. During both the summer and winter months, Park Rangers will be found dispensing information on the National Memorial grounds every day from 8:30 am to 5:00 PM, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Day. The Memorial grounds are open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. For more information, please call (405)609-8859 or check out their website.