After a foggy morning at our campground in Hot Springs, Arkansas, we started the 5 hour and 20 minute drive to Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City was our next stop on the 2016 cross-country road trip! This stop also included another surprise visitor! My sister drove up from Texas to meet us for the day and evening in Oklahoma City.
Usually our rule for road trips, especially road trips with the camper, is that we always stay in each location for at least 2 nights. Well, we broke our rule for two stops on this trip, Oklahoma City and our next stop, Albuquerque. We had a few must see stops further west. So, these two stops became our two quick nights/long driving days. We knew we would be back to Albuquerque since we were moving to New Mexico. We hope to return to Oklahoma City one day also. What a beautiful city!
Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum
After our drive, we pulled into downtown Oklahoma City right after lunch time. We met my sister, Aunt Hillary, at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. The Oklahoma City Memorial is dedicated to the victims, rescuers and all of those affected by the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995. I was particularly interested in seeing this museum because as a 12-year-old girl, the Oklahoma City bombing was the first real tragedy in United States History that I remember deeply affecting me. I remember seeing the images on the news and in the newspaper. Images of children being pulled from the rubble were particularly striking for me.
As a child, I feel our parents try to shield our minds from danger and tragedy. The Oklahoma City bombing was the first tragedy where I can remember understanding what was happening. I remember being concerned and confused at the same time. Now, as a parent, I feel the same concern to protect my children. But, I also want them to develop empathy and understanding for others. While she might be too young to fully grasp the enormity of this tragedy, this visit definitely allowed Emelia an opportunity to ask questions and to see the hope that came from such deep devastation. The museum exhibits highlighted the goodness of people during, after, and continuing today. It reminded me that even through tragedy, we can still find the beauty in life.
Memorial Museum and Grounds
So, we spent about 2 hours exploring the museum and the memorial grounds. The museum guides you through that day, the aftermath, and the response. It is humbling, frightening, and uplifting all at the same time. The information was interesting and thorough. After we toured the museum, we spent some time outside in the memorial grounds.
The reflecting pool, symbolic gates of time, and the field of empty chairs lie on what was once the Murrah building and the surrounding area destroyed in the blast. The grounds are beautiful. It is incredibly moving to walk the grounds and think about what happened at this site. There are many reminders of the tragedy that occurred here, but there are also reminders of the community that came together to pick up the pieces. There is a chain-link fence surrounding part of the memorial where visitors leave messages of encouragement and hope. Children can also leave messages of hope using chalk in the children’s area near the museum entrance.
A Beautiful Reminder of Lives Lost
The memorial is somber yet beautiful. We spent time taking in all the emotions that go with touring a site like this. We marveled at the survivor tree, a beautiful American elm tree that survived the blast against all odds and now thrives. We read the names of victims on the empty chairs, young and old, and the names of survivors etched on the only remaining walls of the Murrah building. We walked along the reflecting pool from gate to gate, marking the time before the blast and the beginning of the recovery. The blast also damaged several churches. The two churches that were located directly adjacent to the Murrah building have also created memorials on their grounds.
Murrah Building Courtyard
Finally, we walked along what was once the Murrah building plaza courtyard where we saw the original south entry to the building, the original flagpole that still flies the United States flag, and the site of the playground for the children at the daycare center.
Our visit to the Oklahoma City Memorial and Museum was incredibly moving. I am so grateful that we had the opportunity to visit. It was only fitting that we ended the day with a gorgeous Oklahoma sunset across the plains.
We spent the rest of the evening as a family, enjoying dinner with my sister. The following morning, a classic Oklahoma thunderstorm jolted us out of bed! The camper was rocking and we thought we might have to run for shelter. Thankfully it passed over us and we were able to pack up, say goodbye, and begin our long journey to Albuquerque.
Campground: Tinker AFB Fam Camp