If you’re reading this blog, you probably remember the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995.
Two men bombed a federal building in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, most women and children. One was executed and the other is spending the rest of his life in prison.
We arrived downtown yesterday, Memorial Day to the Oklahoma City National Memorial. The first thing that you see are the two arches (or gates) separated by a reflecting pool. A field of chairs, one for each person that died, sits to a side. Though there are quite a few visitors, the place is quiet. I’ve been to other national park sites in major cities such as Martin Luther King National Historic Site and the St. Louis Arch, which are treated as pleasure parks by the city’s residents. But not this one.
The site is not technically a national park unit. It’s owned and operated by the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation and considered an affiliate of the National Park Service. It became an affiliate in 2001, before 9/11.
Rangers roam the outside to help interpret the site. We started talking to a ranger, who assured us that this site would never have existed if Oklahoma hadn’t gotten together, raised money and built this memorial and museum. And then he quizzed us:
“April 19, the day of the bombing, was not random. What else happened on April 19?” He asked.
“April 19, 1775 – the beginning of the American Revolution in Lexington and Concord”, Lenny said. This was getting weird.
“And,” the ranger added, “The siege at Waco, Texas ended on April 19, 1993.” He made the point not to mention the names of the terrorists. “No need to remember their names”.
I wasn’t going to write about the Oklahoma City bombing site because I didn’t think it would affect me as much as it did. Here were two men who got it into their heads to get back at the federal government by bombing a building. No one could tell me why they chose Oklahoma City. “They weren’t from around here.” They were really vagrants looking to make a point. And they broke thousands of lives.
You hear a lot of “life is fragile”. This is where this statement really applies.
The museum starts from before the bombing – 9:01 am. It goes step by step from blast, shock, and rescues to investigation and of course, hope. Many rescuers came from around the country and commented about the friendliness of the Oklahomans. They’re a friendly group of people who will say, “Hi, How are you doing?” even on a street in a large city like Oklahoma City. Their story cannot be ignored.