Aug 15, 2011
We’ll start off with a typical Kansas sunrise then we headed 170 miles South in I-35 to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. We stopped there four years ago for about three hours to see the OKC Memorial then headed off toward the East on our way home. The Memorial was so impressive I recommended it to my brother Jim and Colleen on their trip through here last year but they wound up staying here for three days. It was their recommendations that helped us see much more of this fine city and provide you with the attached pictures. If you like them you can thank us and if you don’t, you can blame them!
Our first stop was at the Oklahoma City Memorial. As most of you remember, this incident was one of the first terrorist attacks in our nation and was the work of “homegrown” terrorists who were dissatisfied with the way our government was running things. Damn, if that were the only criteria, buildings would be blown up every other day around this country. Well it did happen here 16 years ago and this Memorial honors the victims, survivors, rescuers and those who whose lives were changed forever on April 19, 1995. It encompasses the soil where the Alfred. P. Murrah Federal Building once stood, capturing and preserving forever the place and events that changed this city and the world. The design of the memorial was selected in an International Competition. The winner was created by a company who used a committee comprised of family members of the victims; rescuers; survivors; civic leaders and design professionals. There are two main features – the Inside Museum which is a collection of recordings, evidence and artifacts and the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial whicch highlights the moments of the blast and those who died in it.
The Gates of Time – Twin monumental gates frame the moment of destruction of 9:02am. The East Gate represents 9:01am and the innocence of the city before the attack. The West Gate represents 9:03am, the moment the city and the U.S. were changed forever.
The Reflecting Pool - that connects the two gates occupies what was N.W. Fifth Street on which the terrorists parked their Ryder Van loaded with explosives, set the timer and fled. This shallow depth of continuous flowing water was meant to help heal wounds with a calming movement and sound providing a peaceful setting for quiet thoughts.
The Field of Chairs – Each of the 168 bronze chairs symbolize a life lost with the smaller chairs representing the nineteen children that were killed. Arranged in nine rows, one for each of the nine floor of the building they are placed according to the floor that a victim was last know to be when the explosion occurred. Each chair rests on a glass base inscribed with the name of a victim. By day the chairs seem to float above the ground and at night their bases are illuminated as beacons of hope.
The Fence- the first fence was installed to protect the site of this horrendous crime as well as the safety of curious onlookers. Almost immediately people began to leave tokens of sympathy, love and hope on it. Those items now total over 60, 000 and are preserved as museum items but they keep coming. Many family members continue to post messages to their loved ones who were lost that fateful day. One poignant picture and wreath is dedicted to a daughter lost while she was carrying an unborn child.
The Wall – On the East end of the Memorial adjacent to the 9:01am Gate stands the only wall from the original building.
The Survivor Tree – an American Elm stood directly across the street from “Ground Zero” and was almost completely destroyed in the blast. Other priorities existed and the dying tree was ignored for over a year. The following spring it began to revive and today it grows as strong as the feelings of the citizens of Oklahoma City. It is truly a symbol of hope for the future.
The Museum which is now located in a city buidling that sat across the street from the Murrah Federal Buidling and begins on the top floor. A local Water Resources Board was conducting a hearing in that very room and recording the information on a taping device when the explosion went off in the street below. The start of the museum tour has you sitting in a dimly lit room staring at five chairs; a microphone and that tape recorder. You hear the voices of those attending that hearing which started exactly at 9:00am and then in less than two minutes - your hear the violence of the explosion. Instantly you see a wall light up showing the pictures of all of the victims. As that light quickly dims you are asked to leave and proceed with your Tour. From that point on you re-live the minutes, hours, weeks and months that followed as you wind your way to the end of the self guided tour by visiting exhibits that reflect Chapters in the history of this event. Those chapters highlight Confusion; Chaos; Survivor Experiences; World Reaction; Rescue and Recovery; Watching and Waiting; A Gallery of Honor (the victims); Funerals and Mourning; Impact; The Investigation and Trial; Hope For The Future. You could see, read and almost experience everything there was regarding the bombing. After the tour it was uncanny how much it all resembled the 9/11/01 terror attacks and its aftermath but only on a smaller scale.
On the back of the West Gate is inscribed the words: “We Come Here To Remember Those Who Were Killed, Those Who Survived And Those Who Were Changed Forever. May All Who Leave Here Know The Impact Of Violence. May This Memorial Offer Support, Strength, Hope, Peace, and Serenity”………well we were there and it did!
*******We only hope the Memorial that will one day honor the 3,000 victims of the 9/11 Terrorist Attacks is half has good.
From here we headed into a restored area of the city know as Bricktown. I would think the name came from the fact that most of the buildings, streets and sidewalks were built or paved with red bricks. In fact some of the newer structures such as their Triple AAA Baseball Stadium were built of red bricks to resemble the older structures. They have also created a River/Riverwalk feature similar to the one in San Antonio, Texas however this one still needs a bit of work. We were impressed enough to come back later in the day for a great Italian meal in one of Bricktown’s favorite restaurants. Mickey Mantle, an Oklahoman, is honored with a special place and statue just outside the field plus a fine dining restaurant across the street which is named for him.
Remember we were here for two days so we did much more. On day two we went to the famous Oklahoma Stockyards where over 100 million head of cattle have been bought or sold since its inception. We got we see this process first hand by crossing the yards on an elevated walkway to see how the cattle arrive and are moved toward the auction house. We stopped by the auction room and got a real education. Cowboys were constantly moving groups of cows from pen to pen, always getting closer to a large building across the property. Eventually they would bring from 3 to 8 cattle into the auction room while a barker was rattling off prices faster than one could keep track. Ranchers in the theater like seats would gesture accepting a rise in the offered price. Within 60 seconds that group of cattle they were observing were sold, moved out and a new group was brought in. In the short 10 minutes that we were there, at least 5 groups were sold. As we left, trucks loaded with cattle came in while others were being loaded into to empty carriers for the trip to a farm. From there we just had to go to Langston's - the cattlemen’s clothing outlet superstore. They had hundreds of types of boots; jeans, shirts and hats for men women and children in five huge rooms. Well what do you think I did about the hats….YES, of course I did! Not only did Andy chew up my first cowboy hat, I needed a white straw one before heading to Dallas.
From there MJ headed back to the RV for a rest at the pool while I visited the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum. Another recommendation from Jim, this was well worth the time. If I had two more days I could not have looked at or absorbed all of the information about cowboys, horses, guns, Native American Tribes, barbed wire used for fencing to American Western Art to Bronze Sculptures, etc, etc, for four straight hours. There was also complete western town, rodeo and two movie theaters located inside the building. Thanks Jim, a stop that was well worth it.
One more stop at a local dog groomer got the boys in shape for the rest of our trip. Tomorrow we head for the Big “D” – Dallas, Texas. stay tuned.