During my Say Hello To America 2016 road trip, I found myself in a new location just about every night. Because of this fact, I had little time to explore and was often forced to choose the one attraction that I wanted to see most. In the case of my visit to Oklahoma City, I was led to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.
Some of you may be too young to know why this OKC location is significant, so allow me to give you a quick recap. On April 19th, 1995, a bombing took place at Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Aimed at the U.S. government, the Oklahoma City bombing was a domestic terrorist attack that claimed 168 lives and left over 800 people injured. It was the first major terrorist attack and until the September 11, 2001 attacks, it was the deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil. The Memorial & Museum was created as an example of a living monument to honor those who were killed, those who survived, and those changed forever by the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
I was only thirteen when the attack of Timothy McVeigh was carried out, but I remember watching the news coverage and attempting to comprehend why someone would commit such an act.
If you should find yourself in Oklahoma City with time for just one attraction, be sure to make the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum your one stop! It will be a solemn experience, but one that will be well worth your time and will likely leave you feeling a bit more connected to the Oklahoma City community.
Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum Details
Hours: Monday through Saturday 9am – 6pm | Sunday 12 – 6pm
Museum Admission: Adult $15 | Senior & Military $12 | Children (5 and under) Free
Two monumental twin gates frame the moment of destruction – 9:02am – and mark the formal entrances to the Memorial. The East Gate represents 9:01am on April 19th and the innocence of the city before the attack. The West Gate represents 9:03am, the moment Oklahoma City was changed forever.
The Museum is made up of ten “chapters” that take you on a chronological self-guided tour through the story of April 19th, 1995 and beyond. Chapters 1 & 2 will start with a brief orientation video and provide the history of the neighborhood surrounding the Murrah Building.
Chapters 3 & 4 – shown in the above video – provides visitors with a look at the initial explosion and the confusion and chaos that followed. A recording from an Oklahoma Water Resources Board meeting that began at 9:00am that morning caught the sound of the bomb that ravaged the Murrah Building, located just across the street.
After leaving the board meeting room, you will experience the horrifying first images that were broadcast to the nation. You will also see quotes from rescue response teams & survivors, personal items from victims, and other artifacts from the Murrah Building.
Clockwise from top left: video surveillance footage shows the Ryder truck that contained the bomb parked in front of the Murrah Building just a few minutes before the explosion, photos and personal items of the 168 lives are displayed in the Gallery of Honor, an aerial photograph of the Murrah Building devastation, more photographs of loved ones lost that day.
Chapter 9 covers the investigation, evidence, and eventual justice as the case built against the conspirators led authorities all over the United States, including the Dreamland Motel in Kansas. Displays also include crime scene photographs, the getaway car, parts of the rental truck, and the shirt that Timothy McVeigh during his arrest.
The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial encompasses the now-sacred soil where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood. The area is highlighted by the Gates of Time, the Reflecting Pool, the Field of Empty Chairs, the Survivor Tree, and the Survivor Wall – the only remaining walls from the Murrah Building.
Across the Reflecting Pool, the Field of Empty Chairs symbolizes each of the 168 lives lost, with smaller chairs representing the 19 children killed. The perimeter of the field aligns with the foundation of the former Murrah Building.
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