When we drove Route 66 in 2008 we had a basic game plan, but some of the most memorable times on our trip were the unplanned side trips and stops at places we didn’t realize would even fall into our path – such as finding the national memorial in Oklahoma City, or Abraham Lincoln’s home in Springfield, Illinois.
I think this was never more true than our overnight stay in Oklahoma City. During the planning stages of our trip, it was meant to be just an overnight stop in the journey. It wasn’t even on my radar – but it came to Abi – that we should visit the National Memorial for the bombing of the federal building.
Oklahoma City Memorial
I can’t remember what day of the week we were in Oklahoma City, but on that day the museum did not open until 1:00. In hindsight, this was probably a gift, which I will explain. The grounds of the memorial are quiet, respectful and incredibly moving. There is a simple, yet stunning, reflection pool where the water is only 3/4 inches deep.
By far – for us – the most moving display, of the memorial, was the chairs. Each chair represented someone who died and what floor they were on in the federal building at the time of the bombing. The chairs are placed on a beautiful lawn surrounded by pine trees.
The chairs representing the children who lost their lives, were smaller and truly heartbreaking. At night, the chairs are illuminated, which I can only imagine how bittersweet that must be to see something so pretty, yet so sad.
Intentional State of Disrepair
We asked one of the park rangers a question about the chairs and she had a small photo packet so we ended up talking with her. She showed us all of the before and after pictures.
She told us 350 buildings in the surrounding area sustained damage from the impact of the blast and 16 buildings had to be taken down. There is a building still standing, that now houses the museum and although they did extensive repairs, they intentionally left some areas in disrepair to show the impact.
Oklahoma City Memorial Museum
As I said we weren’t able to visit the museum and I’m actually thankful it was closed. Walking around the gardens and seeing the aftermath of such an event was difficult at best. Had we been able to visit the museum and see (and hear) the images, our hearts would have been overwhelmed.
Sometimes that’s okay, but for this time visiting the gardens was what we were meant to see. We took away so much from the experience and the memory will stay with us forever.
If you find yourself in Oklahoma City, don’t miss an opportunity to visit the memorial. It’s difficult to experience, but we all need to bear witness and remember.