I drove from Springfield, Missouri to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma today. I found a local Elks lodge that had RV electrical hookups available to members. After locating the lodge and confirming that the electrical connection was functioning correctly, I jumped back in the motorhome and drove downtown to see the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum. I have heard that it is excellent but was not able to put it on the agenda on previous trips through Oklahoma. So, today was the day.
Having only driven the motorhome for just over a week, I am still learning about maneuvering it in tight quarters. Thus, driving downtown would be a new learning opportunity for me. I am glad it was Sunday because there was less traffic downtown. After driving around, I located an empty parking for a group of attorneys and it looked like the perfect place to park the motorhome.
I thought the Memorial Museum was very moving. The bombing happened on April 19, 1995 at 9:02 am. The day after my birthday. I remember when it happened. I also remember thinking “Why Oklahoma City?”
One of the first exhibits was about a water hearing that had started at 9:00 am in the Murrah Federal Building. They were recording the proceedings of the hearing. We walked into a reenactment room and they started playing the recording. A woman introduces herself as being in charge of the hearing and how it will be organized to allow both sides to speak. She talked about writing a report based on the hearing and the entity that would ultimately make the decision about the water hearing. She is going through this introductory information when suddenly there is an extremely loud explosion and you can hear people yelling, screaming, and trying to get out. It was an extremely shocking and powerful recording. This was not Hollywood. This was an actual home-grown terrorist attack. I was stunned listening to it.
There were powerful stories from different people buried in rubble. There were 168 deaths. Many survivors too. One of the most mind-shocking accounts was about a woman that had a huge heavy beam crushing one leg. They could not get her out. An interview with a physician described that they were either going to have to amputate her leg or they would have to leave her there. No anesthesia was possible. All they could do was give her a benzodiazepine injection (Versed), apply a tourniquet, and amputate her leg while she was awake. She was screaming during the procedure. With difficulty, they were finally able to free her body and she survived. Horrific!
There were moving accounts of survivors and family members describing moving on after the tragedy. They talked about the tremendous loss. They described family members that were suddenly in charge of raising children because their parents were killed. There were heart-wrenching stories of parents losing children in the daycare facility housed in the building.
The Gallery of Honor was a beautiful tribute to those people killed during the explosion.
The museum also covered the investigation of the bombing and how Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were found. McVeigh was ultimately executed and Nichols is serving life in prison.
Although this museum is focused on a massive tragedy, I thought it was extremely well done. They presented factual information and they honored the loss so many people have endured. I highly recommend the museum.