OKLAHOMA CITY ” On the flight out here, a stewardess on my flight was telling me about the memorial in Oklahoma City for the bombing victims at the federal building in 1995. And as she talked about it, her eyes began to well. They weren’t misty. These were big tears she was wiping away.
I was stunned that she felt that way and I guess part of the reason I was surprised was that the bombing was 13 years ago and Tim McVeigh, who carried out the cowardly act, was executed almost seven years ago.
So I made it a point on Wednesday to walk over to the site of the bombing to see the memorial. And like the stewardess, I was also moved to tears.
The chain link fence that was erected after the truck bomb went off is still there, adorned with more than 60,000 items ” key chains, flowers, beads, dolls. Occasionally you’ll see a picture of one of the 168 people killed in the blast. The one that got to me was of a pregnant woman who died in the explosion.
The Alfred Murrah Federal Building was the site of the truck bomb and it is now a park that is both depressing and inspirational. There is a plaza that is a bit of a maze overlooking a huge reflecting pool that used to be Fifth Ave. And next to it is the Field of Empty Chairs, a sad reminder of the lives that were lost.
Each of the bronze and glass chairs has a name or, in the case of a woman who also lost a child in the blast, two names. They are arranged in nine rows to signify the nine floors of the building.
It really is an overwhelming sight. You stand there and think of all these lives that were snuffed out and you feel a combination of rage and sadness.
Next to the Field of Empty Chairs is a Survivor’s Wall which lists the names of the lucky ones who were in the building but were not killed. At each end of the reflecting pool is a monumental gate. One the east gate it reads 9:01, the minute before the bombing took place. On the west gate, it reads 9:03, one minute after the world was changed forever.
There is also a children’s area, a rescuers orchard and the Survivor Tree, a massive elm that made it through the terrible day. And the children’s playground ” which made me tear up ” has been preserved.
On the wall of the Memorial Museum is written in spray paint the mission statement of the people of Oklahoma City.
We search for the truth.
We seek justice.
The courts require it.
The victims cry for it.
And GOD demands it!
I’m not sure if this experience made we feel better or worse.
Better for realizing just how devastating it was and knowing that it’s something I’ll never forget.
Worse for the same reasons.