I was in Oklahoma last week and visited the outdoor memorial for the Oklahoma City bombing. The memorial is one of the most beautiful and thoughtful I’ve seen. The design was chosen from hundreds of entries – from each US state and dozens of countries. The winning design was chosen by a group of survivors, family members, rescuers and civic leaders. It honors the day, the time, the events, 168 deceased, the rescuers and survivors.
I entered from the south side and could see the memorial from above first. They left one wall of the Murrah building standing, and rebar and charred walls could still be seen.
All the survivors names and where they were located, are on granite slabs that were salvaged from the building and placed on this wall. Searching for an original photo of the destruction, shows almost half the building was destroyed.
There is a field, with 9 rows of 168 chairs, spread across the grass in 9 rows, with smaller chairs representing the children. The chairs were placed the rows, based on what floor they worked on or were visiting at the time of the bombing.
The field is the perimeter of the Murrah building and is lined with a granite walkway. The granite was salvaged from the building. At night the bases of the chairs are illuminated, and at Christmas there are wreaths.
The Gates of Time
There are two large walls that separate the peaceful memorial where tragedy took place. One has 9:01 – the minute prior to the bombing when their lives were innocent and idyllic. The other wall has 9:03 – the minute after the bombing when their lives were forever changed.
There is also a 90 year old ‘Survivor Tree’.
This tree was heavily damaged and carefully cared for for many years, so it would come back. It now stands as a sign of human resilience. After it was healthy again and producing seeds, the landscaping staff collected all the seeds and a local farmer grew seedlings and gave them away to the family members of victims the next year. Now, the tiny trees are available each April 19 on a ‘first come – first served’ basis. When I saw the tree, it looked like a normal, huge Elk tree. No damage. All it’s wounds were healed. It reminded me of trees at home – years after the Old Fire burned my home & possessions. Two resilient trees replanted themselves. One was a jacaranda (At first I thought it was a baby fern), the other was a mulberry.
McVeigh believed the US government was involved in bullying US citizens. His first incident was the 1992 tragedy in Ruby Ridge Idaho. The Weaver family mom, son and dog were killed after a US intervention and confrontation, because Mr. Weaver refused an offer to become an informant in exchange for dismissal of charges of possession of illegal weapons. The surviving members of the Weaver family filed a lawsuit, and combined received over $3 Million. Both the internal task force and the 1995 Senate subcommittee criticized the rules of engagement as unconstitutional and 12 FBI employees were disciplined.
The destruction of the Branch Davidians in Waco, TX and the disappearance of evidence was the last straw for McVeigh. He was convinced to take action. McVeigh was a former Army soldier, who served in the Gulf War and a security guard. His weapon of choice was a truck bomb in front of the Alfred P. Murray Federal Building. He killed 168 people (19 kids) and injured over 600.
If want to donate to preserve the grounds, and teach others about rejecting violence and promote hope and compassion in the wake of violence, you may mail your donation to:
Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum
PO Box 323
Oklahoma City, OK. 73101