Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, OKC…

While in OKC, one MUST STOP destination is the OKC National Memorial!DSC_0118_118e2 copyWe visited the memorial last year, but we did not visit the Museum that is located next door.  We had talked about going last year, but weren’t sure how kid appropriate it was, and we just never did it.
So, this visit to OKC, I took a few of the middle and big kids, and we spent just over 2 hours at the…
DSC_0001_001e The museum is housed in the former Journal Record Building, which was damaged in the bombing.

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The building has since been repaired, and now 2 floors of it are dedicated to a museum chronicling the day of the bombing, minute by minute.DSC_0015_015eWhen you enter the third floor of the building, which is the beginning of the museum (you work your way down to the second), you get some basic information on what terrorism is by definition and a overview of some of the ways that terrorism has impacted the US.  You then begin to walk through the normal happenings of the everyday busyness that surrounded the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building on the day of April 19, 1995.  The museum walks you through a layout of the city including and surrounding the Federal Building, when the bombing happened, including what it would have been like had you been in a nearby building when the bomb went off.  Then you walk into a room that surrounds you with the chaos and tragedy that met first responders.
DSC_0028_028e While I watched the networks covering the bombing, the magnitude of the disaster had since been marginalized by time and memory.  It was an incredible event to revisit.  Especially on location.
The bomb damaged over 300 buildings in OKC, and 16 buildings were either destroyed, or had to be demo’d because of extensive damage.
DSC_0033_033e Was this a feel good museum?  No. not really.  There were some interactive things to do for the kids (I would recommend ages 7 and up if you are going to stop and read plaques and watch footage…), but it was pretty sobering.  BUT, I was really very glad that we went!  It was an excellent opportunity for us to be able to talk to our kids about the roles of heros and first responders, the value of life, and the need for appropriate justice.DSC_0045_045eThe museum has an area where you can watch news footage, of the time immediately after the bombing, from all around the world.  They have many artifacts on display in the museum, including the rear axle off the rented moving truck, that provided authorities with a key clue (the VIN number off the truck) that would quickly lead them to naming a suspect in the terrorism.DSC_0059_059e There are areas of the museum that cover finding survivors, and finding those that didn’t survive. A story of rescue efforts hampered by workers having to abandon the site twice due to thinking there were more bombs, and again in the afternoon due to a tornado watch.

One of the stories that I found most fascinating was the story of Daina Bradley, who’s leg was pinned under a concrete wall that could not be moved for fear of causing a collapse.  The story has many more details than I can cover here, but basically, the doctor had to amputate her leg (while he was sprawled out laying on rubble over the top of her) with emergency equipment that wasn’t adequate for the job (but all they had on site) – his tools became dull, and he had to finish cutting through her leg with an everyday pocketknife he carried around in his pocket.  She survived (to find out her 2 sons, and her mother, were killed in the blast).  I know that probably doesn’t make anyone want to visit the museum, but really, if you are in OKC, you must.  It was incredible.  We came to the National Memorial, outside, last year, but we didn’t tour the museum.  I am SO glad that we toured inside this year.
The stories were/are not just of those that lost their lives, but also of those that survived, those that helped, those that sent their love and prayers from all over the nation.  It’s about healing and rebuilding, both lives and a city.
This is a wall of well wishes…DSC_0066_066e The Gallery of Honor honors the 168 people who lost their lives during the Murrah building bombing.  A photograph of each person is displayed, along with a memento that belonged to them. DSC_0071_071e The Fence.  Friends and families of the victims, and well wishers alike leave tokens of hope and love.  Over 60,000 items have been left;   DSC_0075_075e…there is still a section of fence, lining the sidewalk outside, where tokens are being left to this day…DSC_0070_030Part of the museum is followup on the investigation into the bombing…
DSC_0078_078e Including some really interesting exhibits on history, evidence, and how they linked it all together.DSC_0082_082e

There are actually a few more sections to the museum, but it was undergoing some renovations, and the “hope” section of the museum was not yet reopened.  There is also a section of the museum that was damaged in the blast, that has been left unrepaired.  We somehow missed that part, but think it would be a great thing to check out, so watch your map!
The museum has a gift shop on the main floor, and there are docents scattered throughout the museum to guide you and answer any questions.

The museum was super touching; it did not leave you feeling depressed, but reflective.
Outside, the weather was beautiful, and the grounds are immaculately kept.
DSC_0099_099e On either end of the reflection pool, which stands where 5th street passed in front of the Murrah building, are the Gates of Time.  One end has the time 9:01 on it, representing the time before the bombing, a time of ‘innocence’.DSC_0105_105e While the other end has 9:03 on it, the time the bomb went off.  The pool is meant to be a calm area, one that provides a peaceful setting for contemplating.  Many people toss coins in the pool…DSC_0110_110e The Field of Empty Chairs stands on the ground where the federal building once stood.  Each chair represents a life lost in the bombing, and the little chairs, like the one in the front left of the picture, stand for the children that died.  Due to a daycare being in the building, as well as several children visiting with their parents, 19 little ones lost their lives that day also…DSC_0116_116e Each of the chairs, made of bronze and stone, has a translucent base that has the name of a victim etched on it’s front.  Underneath each chair, is a light – lit up at night, the field is beautiful.
The Journal Record Building from the Reflection Pool…DSC_0118_118e Across the street from the museum and 9:01 gate is a tribute to the victims.  The statue is to represent Jesus, some say grieving for the lives lost here, some say grieving for the depravity of man who would allow something like this to happen.  The inscription at His feet simply says, “Jesus wept”DSC_0133_133eGoing to visit OKC?
My recommendations:
Definitely do the museum if you can!  Truly, a stay in Oklahoma City is not complete without visiting this memorial location.
It took us a FULL 2 hours (we read and watched lots) – and metered parking was $3 for that time.  Do the museum before you do the grounds (grounds hold greater meaning and you better understand the symbolism.  Plan on walking the grounds, including walking through the Field of Chairs (and come back and visit this again in the dark if you can!).  Plan another, more cheerful, stop after your visit to the memorial.lol.  There is lots to do downtown, and the Myriad Botanical Gardens is just a few blocks away!  :)

The memorial is such a large part of what Oklahoma City is today.  While it is a reverent place, it is also a place of hope, dreams, and healing.  Definitely a must stop if you want to experience OKC.

Lilla Rose

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