Monday, July 19, 2010

OKC Memorial

I am ashamed to admit that I live an hour and 1/2 from the site of the Oklahoma City bombing and in the 15 years since the horrific event that claimed 168 lives, I have never visited the stunning memorial that was built. Stop #3 - OKC Memorial and Museum

This is the edge of the Survivor's Wall that we saw when we first arrived.

Bolded sections from Wikipedia:

Survivors' Wall: The only remaining original portions of the Murrah Building are the southeast corner, known as the Survivors' Wall, and a portion of the south wall. The Survivors' Wall includes several panels of granite salvaged from the Murrah Building itself, inscribed with the names of more than 800 survivors from the building and the surrounding area, many of whom were injured in the blast.

This is the truly beautiful reflective pool that was built in the center of the memorial site.
Reflecting Pool: A thin layer of water flowing over polished black granite, the Reflecting Pool runs east to west down the center of the Memorial (also see reflecting pool) on what was once Fifth Street. Visitors who see their reflection in the reflecting pool are supposed to see "a face of a person changed by domestic terrorism."

And here are 168 chairs for the 168 people who were killed.
Field of Empty Chairs: 168 empty chairs hand-crafted from glass, bronze, and stone represent those who lost their lives in the tragedy. A bombing victim's name is etched in the glass base of each chair. The chairs represent the empty chairs at the dinner tables of the victims' families. The chairs are arranged in nine rows symbolizing the nine floors of the building, and each person's chair is on the row (or the floor) on which the person worked or was visiting when the bomb went off. The chairs are also grouped according to the blast pattern, with the most chairs nearest the most heavily damaged portion of the building. The westernmost column of five chairs represents the five people who died but were not in the Murrah Building when the bomb went off (two in the Water Resources Board building, one in the Athenian Building, one outside near the building, and one rescuer). The 19 smaller chairs represent the children killed in the bombing. Three unborn children died along with their mothers, and they are listed on their mothers' chairs beneath their mothers' names.
The fence where people left mementos is still standing. New mementos have been added, but there is something powerful if yet strange about this fence.
The Memorial Fence: A ten foot tall (3.05 m) chain link fence was originally installed around the area that is now the Reflecting Pool and the Field of Empty Chairs to protect the site from damage and visitors from injury. The Fence stood for more than four years and became famous itself, with visitors leaving stuffed animals, poems, keychains, and other items there as tributes. During the construction of the Outdoor Memorial, 210 feet (64 m) of the Fence was moved to the west side of the Memorial, along the 9:03 side or the 'healing' side. The remainder of the Fence is in storage. Visitors may still leave small items along and in the Fence; the mementos are periodically collected, catalogued, and stored.
Children painted tiles for the entrance of the museum. This is one that spoke for me.
More than 5,000 hand-painted tiles, from all over the United States and Canada, were made by children and sent to Oklahoma City after the bombing in 1995. The tiles are now stored in the Memorial's Archives, and a sampling of those tiles is on the wall in the Children's Area, along with a series of chalkboards where children can draw and share their feelings. The Children's Area is north of the 9:03 gate, on the west side of the Museum

The entrance to the museum also has a chalkboard area where people can write their thoughts.

I think that's a cool idea. It did appear that the children might fry like eggs, but they sweated it out and each wrote a message.

Luke composed one all by himself: "You are in the hands of God."

Finally, the rememberance tree, a perfect ending to our visit.

The Survivor Tree: An American elm on the north side of the Memorial, this tree was the only shade tree in the parking lot across the street from the Murrah Building, and commuters came in to work early to get one of the shady parking spots provided by its branches. Photos of Oklahoma City taken around the time of statehood (1907) show this tree, meaning it is currently at least 103 years old. Despite its age, the tree was neglected and taken for granted prior to the blast. Heavily damaged by the bomb, the Tree ultimately survived after nearly being chopped down during the initial investigation, in order to recover evidence hanging in its branches and embedded in its bark.
The force of the blast ripped most of the branches from the Survivor Tree, glass and debris were embedded in its trunk and fire from the cars parked beneath it blackened what was left of the tree. Most thought the tree could not survive. However, almost a year after the bombing, family members, survivors and rescue workers gathered for a memorial ceremony under the tree noticed it was beginning to bloom again. The Survivor Tree now thrives, in no small part because the specifications for the Outdoor Memorial design included a mandate to feature and protect the Tree. One example of the dramatic measures taken to save the Tree: one of the roots that would have been cut by the wall surrounding the Tree was placed inside a large pipe, so it could reach the soil beyond the wall without being damaged. A second example is the decking around the Tree, which is raised several feet to make an underground crawlspace; workers enter through a secure hatchway and monitor the health of the Tree and maintain its very deep roots.
The inscription around the inside of the deck wall around the Survivor Tree reads:
The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.
Hundreds of seeds from the Survivor Tree are planted annually and the resulting saplings are distributed each year on the anniversary of the bombing. Thousands of Survivor Trees are growing today in public and private places all over the United States; saplings were sent to Columbine High School after the massacre there, to New York City mayor Rudolph Giuliani after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, and various other times.

2 Wonderful Responses:

Heather Keith said...

WOW! I love this post and so glad to be there and share this day with you!

Kathleen said...

Wow! Amazing! And I LOVE the pic of your two standing, arms around each other, at the fence!