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OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING MEMORIAL & MUSEUM
Story of Terror, Hope and Healing

Field of Chairs Memorial Okalhoma City photoOn the morning of April 19, 1995, America’s view of itself changed. American born homegrown terrorist Timothy McVeigh parked a rented Ryder truck filled with drums of fuel oil and fertilizer on the street next to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. The bomb blast explosion went off at 9:03 in the morning ripping through the 8 story building of offices with a day care center on the ground floor, killing 168, including 19 children, and injuring more than 680 others. An hour and a half after the explosion, McVeigh was stopped for driving without a license plate by an Oklahoma State Trooper. He told the officer Charlie Hanger he had a weapon in the car and was arrested. Forensic evidence quickly linked McVeigh to the truck and accomplice Terry Nichols. Timothy McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001. The remains of the bombed building were removed, the scar on Oklahoma City, both the physical and spiritual have been transformed into the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, part of the federal National Park system.

The Oklahoma City bombing memorial is essentially two experiences, one the actualy site where the Alfred P. Murrah building stood, now an open green space with the hauntingly evocative empty chair sculpture and a grassy slope, facing a reflecting pool of now gone building’s footprint, and the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum, indoors in the former office building of the Oklahoma Journal Record. For two years following the bombing, the only memorial to heal the emotional wound on the city was the spontanious placing of stuffed toys, photos and other personal momentoes left in the chain link fence which guarded the ruble strewn site, until a design competition fulfilled by the creation of the outdoor memorial dedicated by President Clinton on the bombing anniversary in 2000 and the opening of the Memorial Museum a year later in 2001 by President Bush.

Symbolic Memorial - Field of Chairs

Oklahoma Ciyt Bombing Memorial Chairs photoMost locals will tell you their favorite time to visit the memorial site is in the twilight evening when the chairs are lighted and the sky glow reflects in the waters over the black polished granite of the reflecting pool. The memorial is entered through two tall square bronze arches, the “Gates of Time” on either end, marked with the glowing stamp of the time of the blast, from 9:01 to 9:03 and the words "We Come Her to Remember, Those Who Wer Killed, Those Who Survived, and Those Changed Forever". On the opposite side of the reflecting pool from the bronze and plexiglas chairs is the Survivor Tree, which as its name suggests survived the blast. Behind the tree can still be found the graffiti which began appearing after the destruction, noting the rage and demand for justice. The “Survivors Wall” left part of the foundation of the building allowing visitors to see the scale of the destruction, with panels of granite etched with the names of more than 600 survivors injured from the blast.

National Memorial Museum

National Memorial Museum inside photoThe Memorial Museum covering two floors follows the chronological events of the day of the bombing through the aftermath of rescue, investigation and recovery. A fascinating and surprising emotional journey through the experience. The museum begins with models and photos of the Murrah building and surrounding structures before the attack, then entering a rather stark and simple room, listening to the actual recording of a meeting of the Water Resources Board located in the building across 5th Street, remarkable only for its mundane ordinariness, suddenly ripped by the sound, shaking and chaos of the explosion. A striking and memorable illustration of how life and the world around you can change forever in an instant.

Ryder Truck Axel Evidence photoThe doors open and allow the visitor to follow the story of the bombing, through lasting artifacts of the damage, audio and visual recordings of the news of the events as they happened, victims, the planners, testimonials of the survivors, the story of the investigation, including the actual remaining part of the mangled rental truck, the rear axel, still tagged as evidence, and the serial number which lead to the identification of the bomber and accomplices. The last section of the museum deals with an examination of the media coverage of the events, which after all lived essentially in its news coverage. A room exhibit for children designed to teach and understand the nature an impact on violence ties to the symbol of the stuffed bear which came to represent the emotional impact of the bombing on the families left behind.

Visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum

Oklahoma City Memorial Fence photoThe outdoor Symbolic Memorial is open every day of the year, 24 hours a day. National Park Rangers are on the site from 9 am to 5:30 pm (except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years days) to answer questions about the memorial features. A mobile phone audio tour of the memorial by dialing 405-445-4792. The Memorial Museum is open Monday to Saturday, 9 am to 6 pm and Sunday 12 pm to 6 pm, with the last entry ticket sold at 5 pm. The Museum admission prices $10 for adults, $8 for Seniors, Military and Students with I.D. and Children under 5 are free. The outdoor memorial site is free. The memorial can be reached on foot from the convention center and Bricktown, about a four block walk from the new Devon Energy Tower. The site is located at 620 N. Harvey at 5th Street. By car visitor parking is available on the streets or a paid parking lot at 5th and Robinson. If visiting Oklahoma City the memorial is well worth a visit. © Bargain Travel West

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National Memorial & Museum

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