We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.®Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum
It was Wednesday, April 19th, 1995. I was sitting in Mr. Barnes 6th Grade science class at Oakdale School. His room was at the end of the hall with the black door across from Mrs. Harkins. I was sitting at the middle table in front of the chalk board. We were making caramel out of cubes of sugar.
That’s when the room shook. As so many others did, we thought the retaining wall that had been leaning more and more into the parking lot for so long had finally come down. That there was a problem with construction on the new Oakdale School being built east of us. It wasn’t.
The classes on the other side of the hall face the west with a long view to Downtown OKC to the southwest of where we were. Less than 13 miles away. We could see the huge flume of black smoke filling the sky – coming from what we found out was the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building in Downtown, Oklahoma City.
We all sat and watched the TV cart as pictures of what had happened were being unfolded before us. I don’t feel like I have a lot of these “I remember where I was” moments in my life – maybe because I don’t allow myself to stop and think long enough or maybe because I have been lucky enough to not have had to experience such events.
This one, however, I remember.
A year or so ago, my wife and I decided to take our kids on a scavenger hunt through Downtown Oklahoma City. We got one of those apps that makes it a fun history game through the town and we set out. About halfway through, we entered the Oklahoma City National Memorial. I have been here many times before but this was the first time we were there to really take it in with the three boys. To tell the story to them.
It felt more powerful this time around. To see their eyes and souls trying to grasp what it all meant. What those chairs were. Why there were small ones and large ones. To see 168 chairs. To watch the films. To hear the stories. To see the Survivor Tree that somehow still stands today.
I don’t think they can grasp the full scope but how could they?
168 people lost their lives that morning. People going to work like any normal day. More than 600 survived. All were changed forever.
Oklahoma Changed. It changed in a way that was powerful. It change because the people were bound together. In a single minute, the people of the Oklahoma City metro area became one voice.
We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived, and those changed forever.
Judge Alfred P. Murrah once said that “the greatest rewards in life come from living outside and beyond one’s self.” These traits have always been a part of the people of Oklahoma but on this day 25 years ago, the world got to see the Oklahoma Standard in action. People caring for people. It hasn’t stopped since.