April 19, 1995: it was a day like any other.
A visit to the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum was a necessity for my 25th breast Cancerversary. I remember watching the news coverage, not really understanding what had happened, thinking the explosion was some type of tragic error. Only learning later that it was the result of terrorism.
The museum stands on the former site of the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building and is a serene and fitting tribute to the victims and survivors of the bombing. The tour, created in chronological order, begins in a room where a board meeting was being held. There are recordings of the meeting, and then the shattering sound of an explosion, the lights dim and flicker, and a door to a hallway opens into the destruction.
Broken light fixtures attached to shattered steel beams, crumpled doors, and rubble stained hard hats from rescuers was hard to see. But there were 19 children among the 168 bombing victims and the pictures of the babies in the memorial room and the detritus covered toys broke my heart. There was a daycare in the Murrah Building, a fact that seemed insignificant to the bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.
The museum exits to the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial. Here you will find 168 remembrance chairs, a reflecting pool bookended by the twin Gates of Time, rescuer’s orchard, and the miraculous survivor tree. The park beckons you to stay, think, and consider what happened that day.
I wasn’t born when the 16th Street Baptist Church was bombed in Birmingham, Alabama but I know the story. The story of hatred-filled men who wanted to cause harm, destruction, and incite fear. Men who meticulously planned to kill people and were unconcerned if they were children. Men who maybe hoped there would be kids among the victims to ensure greater feeling of trepidation. Men who wanted to control the actions of others and would do the unthinkable to wield that control.
I left the museum feeling somber. We are again living in a political climate where intimidation is a tactic used to control people. Hate-filled speech spews from the federal, state, local governments and, sadly, pulpits. Perhaps a visit to the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum could touch their hearts and open their souls and they would be reminded of their humanity. I have hope that I will live to see this change and maybe it won’t take 25 more years.
The Museum is located at 620 N Harvey Ave Oklahoma City, OK 73102 and tickets can be purchased here.
Have you visited the museum? What was your most moving moment?