On April 19, 1995 a bomb exploded in front of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. 168 people were killed, including children at the day care center in the building. The daughters were 5 and 6; I asked myself – not for the first or the last time – “what is the world coming to?”
The following spring (or thereabouts) I visited Oklahoma City with a group of friends. We chose to drive by the site of the bombing. At that time, the site was completely fenced off with a chain link fence. The fence was covered with notes and wreaths and flowers and teddy bears and remembrances. It was a public memorial made by 1000s of private individuals, family and friends and complete strangers to the innocents who had lost their lives that day.
On Sunday, April 26, 2015 – almost exactly 20 yrs since the bombing – the husband and I were driving thru Oklahoma City and the only place I wanted to stop and see was the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Earlier that day, the 15th Annual Run to Remember took place on the streets around the Memorial.
There is still a section of the chain link fence that we saw 19 years earlier:
You enter the memorial from either end thru the double Gates of Time, which are inscribed on the outside:
On the inside, the gates are simply inscribed 9:01 and 9:03, the minute before and after the bomb went off.
The more well known aspect of the monument, and the most moving, is the 168 empty chairs. On this day, the chairs were covered with mementos from the race earlier in the day: bibs, jerseys, medals, and often a single rose. I don’t know if it would have been more powerful to see the chairs truly empty, or to see them as we did, with tangible proof that the lives lost were still being remembered and celebrated.
The museum adjacent to the memorial was closed when we were there. I’ve heard it is very well done and worth the visit. The man sitting next to me at the Tulsa baseball game said that when his family visited the site, his wife was so moved by the chairs that she didn’t think she could handle the museum so she waited outside for them. I think I feel the same way.
Walking away, I couldn’t help thinking, yet again, “what is the world coming to?” This horrible thing happened in Oklahoma, and we built this incredible memorial. But why? Because we needed it to heal? So that we would never forget? I can’t help but think of all the places in the world where people are at risk of violence like this every. single. day. How do they heal and go on? I can’t help but feel very grateful to just happen to have the life that I do.