My wife, myself, and two other couples visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial last night. We had been told that it had the most impact at night so after dark we took the walk from OKC’s Bricktown to the memorial. We chatted loudly as we walked the streets but naturally became somber and hushed in tone as we arrived at the city block where the bombing occurred.
Our entrance was through a 4-story tall bronze “gate” which led to a 1″ deep reflecting pool which replaced the street along which the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood. There was a bronze gate at the other end of the pool as well.
Shortly after our arrival we were approached by Tucker, one of the National Park Service employees. He was quite friendly and asked if we had any questions so one of our company asked him to explain the various pieces of symbolism contained in the memorial. Tucker did a fantastic job explaining the memorial with great enthusiasm — I will be writing the park service to commend him. As I recall there were 8 major elements in the memorial. The bronze “Gates of Time” represented the minute before the life-changing event. One gate is marked “9:01” — one minute of innocence before the blast. The other gate is labeled “9:03” to mark the first minute into the healing process after the blast. The reflecting pool is there to allow one to look into it and see a life forever changed by what happened.
The “Field of Empty Chairs” was the most significant part of the memorial to me. The field itself is the footprint of the former building. Each chair has the name of a victim and is placed in such a way as to indicate the floor of the building where the person was killed. I attempted some pictures — all I had was a basic point-and-shoot camera — but none are good enough to post .
Other symbols included the Survivor Wall, Survivor Tree, Rescuers’ Orchard, Children’s Area, and the Fence. Tucker explained each one and even gave us insight into why the memorial’s designers chose to represent things as they did. However, I’ll leave it to you to read about these on the internet if you are interested.
Despite the poor quality of the night-time point-and-shoot pictures I decided to post them anyway and I encourage each of you to take a bit of time to remember the victims of this horrible tragedy. We marked our remembrance by doing something Tucker suggested. We dipped our hands in the reflecting pool and placed them on the bronze gates for a few seconds. This leaves a lasting hand print on the bronze — a lasting mark of our visit.