Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial

by John Fisher

Last week my wife and I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum, which honors the 168 people (including 15 children) who died in the bombing of the Murrah Federal office building on April 19, 1995. I was greatly moved emotionally.

Staff indicated that it takes about an hour and a half to take the tour that begins on the second floor and makes it way down to the first and then to the bookstore and exit and the ground level. We took two and half-hours and didn’t see all that we would have liked to.

The tour begins with a description of the building and then takes your back to 9 a.m. on April 19, 1995 by listening to a recording of a meeting that began across the street and adjacent federal building. About two minutes into the recording I jumped at the sound of an explosion. We then moved into the next room, which showed scenes and broadcast news reports about the impact of the explosion.
Display in the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum

The next few rooms described the response of police, fire, and emergency medical personnel as well as the city generally. I was impressed by the immediate and long-term work of first responders, including 665 Urban Search and Rescue Teams (USAR) that came with 24 K-9 units from across the nation.
Rescuer photo in the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum 

Responders rescued hundreds of injured people on the day of bombing. The final live victim was pulled from the ruins at 7 p.m. Finally, after a week it was determined that no more people could be alive. The rescue process ended and the recovery process began. On May 5th the search was called off because of potential danger to responders. On May 23rd the building was demolished, with three people unaccounted for. On May 30th, their bodies were discovered as workers removed the rubble.

I learned how eagerly the citizens of Oklahoma City answered any appeal for help. And, how determined they became in face of disaster. They pulled together and became united in their efforts to recover form the tragedy.

The media helped tremendously in the response by keeping the public informed and by sharing appeals for help when needed. They respected the privacy of victims and their family and treated all with dignity.

On the first floor we walked into a room with windows that provided a panoramic view of the memorial which consists of a pond the length and width of a city street next to where the Murrah Building stood. At either end are large block monuments with the time of the blast inscribed. Across the pond are 168 chairs on a grassy knoll (the original site of the building) representing the 168 people who died in the explosion.

Oklahoma City National Memorial shows 168 chairs for each person who died 

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