I can still remember that April morning in 1995. After all, I had a beautiful baby boy who had become my whole world in January of that year. The idea of a “safe” world was left behind that morning of April 19th…at 9:02 am. A horrific attack on US soil by an American. How was it even possible?! I remember holding my son in my arms, while watching on television in disbelief as emergency medical personnel searched for survivors. Life forever changed for all Americans on that day.
In the early 2000’s, my parents had visited the Oklahoma City bombing memorial. My mom was so moved by this memorial that she impressed upon me that if I ever had the chance to visit it I should. Therefore, when planning this trip, I figured we needed to add this stop to our agenda. We would have less than 24 hours in town, but it was the perfect amount of time to visit and experience the memorial.
Similar to how I felt when we visited the World Trade Center Memorial, I was overcome with emotion. The moment that we entered the west wall, my eyes filled with tears and I felt all of the hurt and the horror that was felt on that April day almost 22 years earlier. After spending some time there, I also felt the hope that came after the initial tragedy.
When I tell you that this memorial is perfection…I mean it.
The Gates of Time – There are two twin walls that frame the site. The east gate represents 9:01 am on that morning, which is the minute before the attack…the innocence. The west gate represents 9:03 am, which is the minute after the attack…the moment we were changed forever.
Reflecting Pool – It occupies what was once NW 5th Street. The gently flowing water helps soothe wounds.
Field of Empty Chairs – There are 168 chairs; each one representing a life lost. There are 9 rows to represent the 9 floors of the building and each chair is placed in the row that represents the floor they were on when they died. The base of each chair has the name of a victim. The smaller chairs represent children who were lost that day – 19 total. Some of the victims were pregnant. Their unborn child’s name is also etched on their chair.
The Survivor Wall – The only original Murrah building walls stand on the east end of the memorial. There are over 600 names etched into granite pieces that hang on the wall. These are the survivors and the granite was salvaged from the lobby of the building.
The Fence – It was originally put around the site to protect it after the attack. People immediately started to leave tokens of hope and love. People still leave items on this fence when they visit.
Rescuer’s Orchard – An orchard of flower and nut bearing trees surrounds the survivor tree representing the people who rushed into help after the attack.
The Survivor Tree – 90 year old tree who bared witness to the attack and survived! There is now a message that reads, “The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.”
Children’s Area – An area that houses various expressions of encouragement that were received from children after the bombing.
While we were at the memorial, a butterfly followed us through the field of empty chairs. An especially emotional moment for us because ever since my mom passed away almost two years ago, I always see a butterfly when she is near. I know that she was happy that I finally saw the beauty of this memorial.
I urge you to go…and spend some time at the memorial. It is peaceful and moving…and we must not forget!