Homage to the Oklahoma City Bombing Victims

Twentieth anniversary of Murrah Building bombing.

MurrahMemorial-sealTwenty years ago today — before the 9/11 attacks on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon, assorted school shootings and other horrific acts of violence, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols set off a massive explosion next to the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City. The blast killed 168 people and injured 680 others, including children, and sent shockwaves through the nation. At first, makeshift memorials of plush toys, crucifixes, photographs, flags and other personal items were hung on the chainlink fence surrounding the site by grief-stricken citizens.

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Chainlink fence remaining at the site honors the original makeshift memorial.

Then, plans were made for an official memorial. When the call went out, 624 entries from all 50 states and 23 countries were received. A commission narrowed them down to five finalists, and the selected design is by Butzer Design Partnership (then of Berlin, Germany, and later of Oklahoma City). Designers Hans and Torrey Butzer with Sven Berg created what is now the Oklahoma City National Memorial. 

Back in 2008, I was a speaker at a conference in Oklahoma City. I arrived in the evening and walked the few blocks from the historic Skirvin Hotel to the Murrah memorial. The sight of the memorial and its empty glass chairs atop illuminated glass pedestals at night was powerful. Being there by myself added to the sense of tragic loss of life.

First look at the Murrah Memorial was at night. The haunting sight of empty chairs atop lighted glass cubes remains with me.
First look at the Murrah Memorial was at night. The haunting sight of empty chairs atop lighted glass cubes remains with me.

Two days later, my speech out of the way, I returned to visit the museum. It was, of course, poignant too, with chronologically arranged curated photographs and artifacts from the explosion artfully displayed, multi-media displays and interactive exhibits too. At the Murrah site, the clock has permanently stopped at 9:03, the morning hour when the truck bomb went off two decades ago.

The museum is located at 620 N. Harvey Ave., Oklahoma City. The outdoor memorial is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year; entry is free. The museum is open daily. Admission is adults $15; senior (62+) $12; military (with ID) $12; student (6 to 17 or college student with current ID) $12 and child (5 years and under) free.