“The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated;
our deeply rooted faith sustains us.”
State 36: Oklahoma - April 4, 2018
We woke up at a Walmart in Oklahoma City well rested, and ready for a brand new day. Yesterday, we visited the Oklahoma Statehouse, and protested with the striking teachers for more funding for education. We could not wait to see what adventures lie ahead today. The first item on the agenda is to drive across town to visit the Cross Country Couple's “Can’t Miss Attraction” for Oklahoma: The Oklahoma National Memorial and Museum. Established by President Clinton on October 9, 1997, the Oklahoma National Memorial and Museum commemorates the victims, survivors, rescuers and all whose lives were affected by the Oklahoma City Bombing. On April 19, 1995 at 9:02 am, Timothy McVeigh detonated a truck bomb outside of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City murdering 168 people, 19 of which were children, and injured 680 others. The blast destroyed 1/3 of the federal building, damaged 324 other buildings, and resulted in over $652 million in damages. The Oklahoma City Bombing remains the deadliest incident of domestic terrorism in American history!
We began by visiting the Oklahoma City National Museum housed in the former Journal Record Building on the North side of the memorial grounds. The museum begins by describing April 19, 1995, as a beautiful sunny day no different than any other. Florence Rogers reported to work as the President of Federal Employees Credit Union, Baylee Almon was dropped off by her mother Aren Almon at the America’s Kids Daycare Center, and the Water Resource Board began hearing applications. The walls of the museum displayed a timeline outlining the normal daily events occurring within the community in the moments leading up to 9:02 am. Please see the pictures below.
The only clue of the upcoming bombing was captured on a security camera at the Regency Tower at 8:56 am. Discovered during the investigation, the security camera captured the only image of the Ryder truck as it drove one block West of the Murrah Federal Building six minutes before the bombing. Please see the pictures below of the exact camera capturing the recording of the only image of the Ryder truck.
Next, we passed through a door, and entered a reproduction of the Water Resource Boardroom. At 9:00 am the day of the bombing, the Water Authority Board directly across the street from the federal building was hearing an application from the Wikle family to sell bottled water from their personal well. However, the Wikle’s neighbors objected to the application in fear their own wells would dry up. We entered the room, sat on a bench and listened to the exact tape recording on overhead speakers of the hearing from the day of the bombing. Two minutes into the tape, we hear the unmistakable and horrendous sound of the explosion, and instantly the images of the 168 killed appear on the entire back wall of the room. Please see the pictures below.
Next, the door to the Water Authority Hearing room opens, and we are thrust into the chaos of the bombings aftermath. News reports from the day play overhead on multiple screens! Remnants of the federal building's sign, blown apart steel doors, and a destroyed wall clock frozen at the moment of the blast at 9:02, are among the carnage and debris which surrounds us! Please see the pictures below.
Most disturbing of all of the displays were piles of personal items, which include: a wrist watch belonging to Karen Gist Carr, shoes belonging to Ashley Eckles, and a briefcase belonging to Susan Ferral, who all died during the bombing. Please see the pictures below.
At 9:00 am Florence Rogers; President of Federal Employees Credit Union was holding a weekly staff meeting in her office with 8 employees. Two minutes into the meeting, the explosion literally cut her office in half! The eight employees in her office tragically died in the blast, and literally disappeared before her eyes! Miraculously, Rogers walks away uninjured with just a small tear in her dress. In the immediate moments following the bombing, hundreds of people rush towards the federal building to aid the injured. Among the first people on the scene was a nurse named Rebecca Anderson. After helping two people out of the rubble, Anderson is fatally wounded after being hit in the head by falling debris. Rebecca Anderson was the only person who died while rescuing others. Please see the pictures below of this amazing Nurse, and American hero.
Oklahoma City Police Officer; John Avera pulls a lifeless 1-year-old Baylee Almon from the building's rubble, and hands her off to a waiting Firefighter Chris Reilds. Photographer Charles Porter snapped a picture of Reilds carrying Baby Baylee. The image evoked emotions of the valiant rescue effort, an attack on innocence, and the brutality of the bombing. The picture was published on the front pages of newspapers worldwide, and even wins Porter the Pulitzer Prize! Neither Firefighter Fields or Baylee’s mothers approved publication of the photo. The image causes both repeated distress and despair to this day by forcing them to relive the traumatic moment over and over again. Out of respect for Baylee's mother, I will not be posting the picture on this blog. The “Iconic image” should serve as a reminder to others the pain individuals experience when a public event infringes upon people’s private lives. In addition, Baylee Almon was just one of 19 children in America’s Kids Daycare Center died in the bombing.
The museum contained a very detailed explanation of the investigation, and vital pieces of evidence which include, remnants of a tire, license plate, piece of side panel, and even the key to the Ryder truck used in the bombing. The rear axle of the Ryder truck used to identify McVeigh was also on display. Also featured was McVeigh’s 1977 Grand Marquis getaway car, the 45. Caliber Glock, knife, scabbard, driver’s license and even the shirt he was wearing at the time of his arrest. Please see the pictures below.
Our final stop in the museum was the Gallery of Honor. Pictures of each of the 168 people killed in the bombing were displayed on the wall inside of a glass case. Inside each case was an artifact or two chosen by the family to provide a sense of the life of their loved one. The names of each of those who died were read on the overhead speaker in a continuous loop. The most heart wrenching was viewing the picture and mementos of the 19 murdered children. The bombing had a particularly devastating impact on the children of Oklahoma City. 219 children lost one parent! 30 children were orphaned! Eight families lost more than one family member! Carrie Ann Lenz was pregnant with a child at the time of her death! Please see the pictures below of the Gallery of Honor at the Oklahoma Memorial National Museum.
After exiting the museum, we visited the nearby Oklahoma City National Memorial. Located on the former site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The memorial includes a reflecting pool flanked by two large gates. One of the gates is inscribed with the time 9:01, the other with 9:03, and the shallow rippling pool between representing the exact moment of the blast at 9:02 am. The South side of the memorial consists of a grassy field with 168 bronze chairs; one for each person who died in the blast. The chairs of the children killed are smaller than the adults who died. The chairs are arranged on the field according the floor of the building the victims were on at the time of their death. Each chair is bronze with a glass base, which is illuminated at night. The chairs represent the empty chairs at the dinner tables of the victims’ families. Please see the pictures below.
The design of the monument incorporated a portion of the foundation of the Murrah Federal Building. In addition, a section of the chain link fence on the Western edge of the memorial remains where millions of mourners have left plush toys, crucifixes, letters, and other mementos over the years. Please see the pictures below.
To the far right of the monument stands an 80-year-old elm tree with a very interesting story. The elm was part of the federal building's original landscaping in 1977. For the next 18 years, the elm tree stood in the middle of building's parking lot unnoticed with its roots encased beneath concrete. After a terrorist truck bomb took down a nine-story building, stole the lives of 168 people, and injured hundreds more, everyone immediately noticed the previously overlooked elm, because it was the only thing left standing! Though maimed and marred, the elm tree survived the bomb blast, the fires that followed, the buildings demolition, and was nearly cut down by authorities to obtain evidence embedded in its trunk! Today, the elm tree has been named the “Survivor Tree”, and still stands tall and proud as a living testament to the resilience of the residents of Oklahoma City! Each Spring seeds are collected from the “Survivor Elm”, and distributed to communities throughout America to be planted. The inscription on the stone balcony surrounding the “Survivor Tree” reads, “The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.” Please see the pictures below of the toughest tree you will ever see.
The Oklahoma City Bombing could have occurred in any community across our country. The act of terror plotted against those working in a credit union, playing in daycare, holding water authority meetings, and just going about their daily lives is incomprehensible. In the bombings aftermath, the outpouring of love, donations, and acts of charity from all across America speaks more about who we are as nation, than the evil acts of two deranged individuals. In what would be Oklahoma City’s darkest hour, the world witnessed Oklahoma City and America at its very best, and that is the lasting legacy of the Oklahoma City Bombing! The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum is a place every American should visit once in their life.
After departing the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, we drove across town where we found a Walmart to spend the night.