Work recently took me to Oklahoma City. I had been there on another work visit a few years ago and that time I visited the site of the federal building bombing. It was a moving place and this time I wanted to go back and take my camera with me. At the end of a day of meetings, I headed across.
The location is slightly odd in that it is in the heart of the city and has a steady stream of visitors but it doesn’t feel busy. I parked on the street across from the entrance and wandered around freely rarely crossing paths with others. There was even a school group there but they didn’t seem intrusive. The memorial has a few key elements.
The footprint of the building is now a grassed area. Surrounded on three side by walls, part of which are the only remaining sections of the original building, the grass is filled with chairs. These chairs are made from bronze and glass and each represents a victim of the bombing. They are laid out in rows based on the floor that the victim was on at the time of the attack. There were many children killed as there was a daycare facility in the building and the chairs for the children are smaller. This has a very poignant effect. The front of each chair has the details of each victim. Apparently, at night the chairs are illuminated from within and I may have to go back when I am next there to see this.
The street that used to run alongside the building and on which the bomb was placed has been closed. It has been leveled and a rectangular pond now is there. At each end are metal arches with two times on them. 9:01 represents the city before the bomb and 9:03 is the city after the bomb.
Across the water from the chairs are a couple of other features. One is a tree. Despite the damage inflicted on everything in the area, this tree survived and became a symbol of the city’s survival. Also, there is a building that previously held a newspaper but is now the museum associated with the memorial. It shows signs of damage sustained and there is graffiti from some of the original rescue workers.
Like so many well thought out memorials, this one is very simple yet very effective. More recent events have led many to forget just how terrible an event this was. It was an example of just how much someone could take their personal point of view to an extreme at the expense of so many innocent people. Quite relevant when hearing some of the things people say these days. If you look at the fence with keepsakes and photos attached to it, it becomes a lot more apparent just how personal an attack like this is to those involved and a reminder why there is no justification for anything like it.