April 19, 1995, 9:02am. Where were you?
"We come here to remember those who were killed. Those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity."
I don't remember the exact moment like I do for other tragic/historic events, in my memory, such as the Challenger explosion or September 11th. I do know that my children were quite young when I watched, in horror, the events of this day unfold. It was a true act of terrorism, perhaps in the cruelest form, since it was at the hands of "one of our own", the ultimate betrayal.
This memorial is a thoughtful and emotional presentation. The memorial design was one selected from amongst 624 entries from around the world. The selected design was chosen by family members of the victims, survivors, rescuers and civic leaders.
Before we entered we found two chain-link fences on the outside filled with tributes:
The original fence was erected to protect the ruins of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. People began leaving their tokens of love, support and sadness that soon totalled over 60,000 items. Some of the original tokens now reside in the adjoining museum to the memorial, in the city archives or are used for educational purposes. Today more than 200 feet of the original fence still stand and gives present-day visitors a chance to leave something to symbolize their support and sorrow.
I know my children, most likely as many of yours did, wrote letters to the children of Oklahoma City. The Maven was six years old when this terrible event occurred and her most vivid memory was writing that letter in her first grade classroom. I showed her pictures of what the bombed out building looked like - she did not remember that image at all. And she didn't remember who was responsible.
You have seen the entry arch to this memorial at the beginning of this post. There are two of these arches which frame a beautiful reflection pond that symbolizes the moment of destruction, 9:02am.
On the reverse side of the entry gate is a simple inscription: 9:01, which represents the innocence of the city before the bombing.
And then, on the facing gate are the numbers 9:03, which represent the moment we were all changed forever and the hope that came from the moments, days, weeks, months and years following the bombing.
This plaque describes best the symbolism of the "Field of Empty Chairs" that is to the side of the reflecting pond.
The smaller chairs represent the 19 children killed in the bombing. The glass base of each chair is etched with the name of a victim. By day, the chairs seem to float on air and by night the bases are lit as beacons of hope.
One of the aspects I felt was unique was the survivor's wall. More than 600 names are engraved on salvaged pieces of granite from the Murrah Building lobby and hang on the only remaining walls of the original building.