On Wednesday morning we checked out of the Springhill Suites and made our way back to the Oklahoma City National Memorial to visit the museum. Little did we know the kind of experience awaiting us.
The museum is actually housed in the old Journal Record Building, just across the street from where the Murrah Building stood. It was also heavily damaged in the blast. After paying our admission, we took the elevator to the third floor to begin our tour. It started with a basic explanation of terrorism as it had impacted the United States from 1985-1995. The second exhibition included the background history of the Murrah Federal Building and surrounding neighborhood. Perhaps the most chilling experience was sitting in a darkened room listening to the official recording of a Oklahoma Water Resources Board meeting being held just across the street on that day. Just two minutes into the recording sounds of the explosion and collapse of one floor upon another could be heard, followed by the subsequent confusion of the people present at the meeting. From there we saw the first news footage taken from a helicopter at 9:13 AM on that day. Through video and sound, we witnessed scenes of chaos, survivor experiences, world reaction, and rescue and recovery. Actual debris and damaged office equipment lay encased in Plexiglas, as somber reminders of the destruction found on that day.
The second floor tour included the impressive Gallery of Honor with photographs of each victim, along with personal family photographs and artifacts. Personal stories of each victim are available through digital recordings.
The amazing story of how evidence was pieced together to capture and convict Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols demonstrates the tenacity of law enforcement officials and lawyers in bringing these terrorists to justice.
It took us three hours to see the museum. We walked out into the sunlight totally drained of emotion, but with a sense of faith in the spirit of the American people.
For more on the Oklahoma City National Memorial the reader is encouraged to explore the website, especially the Virtual Archive in Memorial Museum by clicking on the link.
October 3, 2012