The last stop on my trip back from Austin was the Oklahoma City National Memorial. At first I thought I was going to miss it, because I thought it closed at 6PM. The museum does close at 6, but the memorial doesn’t close, but I did arrive with five minutes to spare. I didn’t go into the museum and I have been told it is great, but seeing the memorial was enough for me.
When you pull up to the memorial you are greeted by a huge black metal gate. There is one on the east side and the west side. On the outside, they each say:
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.
Inside, the east gate has the time 9:01, the minute before the bombing, while the west has 9:03, the moment after when all was changed. I vaguely remember the bombing, I was only nine at the time. It wasn’t like when the twin towers where hit and I remember the rest of that day very vividly. I doubt I had the same reaction at nine, but the memorial is very powerful to see and I was definitely trying to remember what my experience was to the event, like 9/11.
The main part of the memorial, the Field of Empty Chairs, is in the footprint of the Murrah Federal Building that was bombed. Each chair of the 168 chairs represents a person who’s life was lost that morning. The chairs have a metal top and a glass base that glow in the light. The smaller chairs are the children and they are all arranged by the floor the person was on and their name is etched in the chair. The field is beautiful, silencing, and overwhelming. If you recall, I mentioned that I was disappointed with the 9/11 memorial. This site give you the knock-down emotions I expected in New York. I just sat across the plaza, thinking, watching others move through the site. I almost didn’t take any pictures. It sort of didn’t feel right, but I also wanted to be able to share my time there, so as you can see I did.
A small portion of the buildings exterior walls remain at the east end called the survivor wall, which lists all those survived the attack. This part was maybe the most disappointing or it just didn’t fit with the rest of the site. Not sure what it was about it.
To the north of the Field of Chairs, and between the two gates, is a reflecting pool that was being repaired or something, so it was just a roped off area but somehow didn’t ruin the effect of the site. North of this, the ground is slowly built up towards the northeast from the Rescue’s Orchard, in a series of steps. At the top is the Survivor Tree. It was unharmed during the attack. A plaza has been built around it that looks down over the rest of the site. Engraved around the low wall is the quote: The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated: our deeply rooted faith sustains us.
The Children’s Area is in front of the museum entrance and next to the portion of the original fence that was installed after the bombing. The fence has many tokens that people left in remembrance, love and hope after the attack. The Children’s Area has the many hand painted tiles that kid’s illustrated showing their encouragement and care for the city.
In total, I spent about 45 minutes at the site. I would have spent more time, but I needed to keep driving, I wanted to get another three to four hours north before stopping. I would love to go back sometime and visit the museum itself. I highly recommend stopping by if you have the chance. It is one of the most emotional and beautiful works I have seen in a long time.