Mile 813 - The Oklahoma City Bombing National Memorial
On our way out of Oklahoma City we wanted to do a quick drive by of the site of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. At the time of the bombing I was just a few days away from graduating college. It is hard to believe it has been 16 years. When we arrived we quickly realized this was more than a drive by, this was a meaningful place with a message.
Approaching the memorial you walk beside 200 feet of the original safety fencing that surrounded the disaster site. On day one people used the fencing to leave their memorials to lost loved ones. 16 years later people continue to do so. Seeing the pictures of children, mothers, fathers, sisters, parents - people who in a moment were gone, creates a personal connection for people like me who watched it all unfold from the safe distance of a 24 hour news network. Across the street is a large statue of Jesus, weeping, with his face turned away from the site. The statue was a powerful reminder that Jesus identifies deeply with humanity. The bombing was indeed a Lazarus moment. It hurts to lose a friend.
We walked in through a massive black paneled gateway with the number 903. We emerged from the gateway facing a long reflecting pool that led to an opposing gate on the other side of the park, identical in design but with the number 901. The reflecting pool was once the street on which evil men parked a truck loaded with explosive material in front of the federal building. The bomb detonated at 9:02 a.m. The 9:01 gate commemorates what life was like before the bomb. The 9:03 gate points to life after the bomb. Everything inside the gates helps us to remember a single moment; the people who died, those who helped to rescue, and those who survived. From the orchard of trees, to a single surviving elm, the pool, the empty chairs, the children’s tiles, the fencing - all of it was so incredibly well thought out and deeply symbolic. The memorial’s website is highly informative and provides a way that a person can use a cell phone to help them interpret the park.
We had determined only to drive by on our way out of town, but Shannon and I were more moved by the experience than we could have ever imagined. The memorial provided a powerful teaching moment for our daughters, which is indeed the purpose of the park. Etched into the gateways are these words, “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.” Mission accomplished with the Branams.
On to Amarillo . . .
Seeing the site and the scars on the surrounding buildings fundamentally changed me forever. I viewed the bombing as a terrible thing that got really annoying with the incessant media coverage until I stood on that block, looking at a fence covered in memorials to the lost mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers of that community.
Twelve years later as I stood looking down into a giant hole in midtown Manhattan on the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, I experienced the same sense of loss and wonder at the depravity of the human race, and a proportional sense of awe at God's amazing grace.