In February, I with other students from a local ballroom dancing studio, competed in a dance competition in Oklahoma City. An annual event, the Oklahoma Challenge Ballroom Dance competition draws dancers from Oklahoma, surrounding states and as far away as Toronto, Ontario. Many return every year to compete against dancers who have now become dance friends. The competition occurs at the Cox Convention Center in downtown Oklahoma City and we stay at an adjacent hotel. Nearby is the Bricktown historic district with trendy restaurants, hotels,clubs, shops and the Chesapeake Arena, home of the Oklahoma City Thunder basketball team.
Also not far away is the site of the biggest “challenge” the city and our state has ever faced- the 1995 domestic terrorist attack on the Murrah Federal Building. On a spring morning in April, a terrorist parked a rental truck on the street in front of the building; the truck contained a 5000 pound bomb made of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil.
A morning of terror
At 9:02 am April 19, 1995 the bomb exploded, destroying one side of the federal building, damaging several adjacent buildings, injuring 680 people and killing 168 people, including 19 children. Until September 11, 2001, it was the deadliest terrorist attack on United States soil; it remains the worst domestic terrorist attack.
A day of remembrance
On April 19, 2000 ,the Oklahoma City National Memorial was dedicated ; the Museum opened a year later. I have visited several times, and always come away having seen and learned something new. If you ever travel through Oklahoma, I recommend you put this on your must-see list. When you come, here are some of the images you will see and experience.
the West Gate of the memorial looking northwest toward the new federal building
window from the museum overlooking outdoor memorial
168 lighted chairs sit on the south lawn of the Memorial.
There is a gold chair for each person who died from the bombing that day.
In the days ,weeks and months following the attack ,we learned all the details about the bombing- the perpetrators, the victims, the rescuers, the survivors.
168 Oklahomans lost their lives there that day, including 19 children.
My husband and I visited the site after the wreckage was imploded and the site was fenced off. The fence became a makeshift memorial, as people left mementos of all kinds- dolls, stuffed animals, photos, pictures, flowers, crafts, flags, shirts, letters. We have visited again since the official memorial and the museum were established on April 19, 2000. Sections of the fence were left intact, and people still leave mementos; others became part of the museum collection.
A long section of the original fence has been left intact, as well as parts of the original federal building wall.
Until 9/11, it was the deadliest act of terrorism on United States soil.
On the wall of the Journal Record Building which was also damaged by the blast; the museum now occupies part of it.
The perpetrators were caught and brought to justice. The driver of the truck was convicted, sentenced to death, and died by execution. The another remains in prison for life.
That day in Oklahoma City showed the best in our state and our country as people, some with no training , risked their lives to help rescue people who were injured and trapped inside. Firefighters and police came from all over the United States to help. People donated food and first aid supplies.
Schools regularly bring students to visit the memorial and museum
Tiles hand painted by children were sent to the city as a show of support and sympathy.
Pansies are popular in Oklahoma in the fall and spring.
I was proud to be an Oklahoman then and now, and still grieve for the lives we lost that day.
The Survivor Tree, an American elm, survived the blast and is part of the Memorial.
statue of a grieving Christ, in the courtyard of a church across the street from the memorial
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
Remarks made by Governor Frank Keating at the Memorial Dedication , April 19, 2000
“We remember that moment that is framed forever by these twin gates. Our place of remembrance is filled with those symbols (ribbons, angels, flags) and also filled with love-the love of countless Americans whose ideas and support and contributions helped create this beautiful memorial.
On April 19 five years ago the flag of our nation was flying over the Murrah building. It is flying over our memorial today, and flies proudly in our hearts.
For those who perpetrated this act, we have one message:
In America you can speak and vote and complain, but there is no right to maim and bomb and kill…and if you think you’ll bring that flag down, there is your answer.
We are all Oklahomans today, and we are all Americans. May God continue to bless our beloved land. ”
quote from The Official Record of the Oklahoma City Bombing, published by Oklahoma Today Magazine
In a previous post, I shared how that day unfolded for me.