Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma: National Memorial and Museum

It's difficult to believe for those of us over the age of, say, 35, but it's been more than 20 years (at this writing) since Timothy McVeigh used a homemade bomb to blow up the Murrah office building in downtown Oklahoma City. The details still seem fresh in our minds - especially the pictures of how one side of the building was simply gone.

Such people often visit the National Memorial and Museum, constructed on the site of the blast. The area carries quite a bit of an emotional pull, even if you didn't have a direct connection to the incident.

There are two parts to the visit. A two-floor museum is next door to the site. Visitors hear a tape on the second floor that was recorded across the street when the bomb went off (the timing was coincidental), and then see exhibits that include some of the wreckage, and videotaped stories of the people involved including heroic actions by first responders. The first floor has something of a shrine to the people who died in the incident, the story of the police investigation in the case, and a quiz of sorts on the legal issues raised by the incident.

Then visitors walk out the door to the grounds. There they will see a couple of giant gates that mark the passage of time that fateful day, a reflecting pool designed to provide calming sounds, and 168 chairs - one for every victim on that day. They are aligned by where they were when the blast went off, placed in nine rows - one for each floor of the building. There's also the survivor tree, which somehow lived through the blast. Seeds have been harvested and planted around the world. It's all moving.

There is a gift shop, and proceeds go to benefit the complex. They sell items from the annual marathon there. I picked up a t-shirt from that race, and I'll be proud to wear it to help remind people of a day in American history when we saw the worst and the best in humanity within minutes of each other.

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