A Reflection – Oklahoma City

Welcome 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.

<Words inscribed on the gates of the Oklahoma City National Memorial>

The Oklahoma City National Memorial

We experience many moments on our travels, but some are forever etched in our memories.

Driving across the country a few years ago, at the height of summer, I stopped at the outdoor site of The Oklahoma City National Memorial. I will never forget entering through its large bronze gates and feeling as if time had stopped. I’d been surrounded in stillness; all I did was observe and absorb. That day, I learned more about the world, about compassion, about humanity, and about the impact of our actions.

A German duo (now based in Oklahoma City) submitted a winning design for the memorial, having been chosen from 624 entries from 50 states and 23 countries as part of an international design competition. Designers Hans and Torrey Butzer with Sven Berg created the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial is a place of quiet reflection that also tells a powerful story of what happened on April 19, 1995 — it honours the victims, survivors, rescuers, families and others affected by the bombing attack.

For those who are not familiar with, or those who haven’t been able to visit The Oklahoma City National Memorial, I hope this post will give you some sense of the space and its impact.

The Gates of Time

Identical bronze gates freeze frame the moments of destruction: The East Gate represents 9:01 a.m., and the West Gate 9:03 a.m.

Reflecting Pool

The central pool encourages peaceful contemplation. Stylistically, it acts as a mirror for those who choose to look into it, changed by the experience.

Field of Empty Chairs

One hundred and sixty eight chairs made of bronze, stone, and glass each represent one life lost. Positioned on the footprint of the destroyed Murrah Building, each glass base bears the inscription of a taken person’s name.

The Survivor Tree and Rescuer’s Orchard

An American Elm, badly damaged in the attack, was rescued. Called the Survivor Tree, it provides ample shade. A grove of Oklahoma redbuds (the state tree), elm and maple trees, planted in honour of those who rushed to provide aid after the bombing, surrounds the Survivor Tree. An inscription around the deck wall (not shown) encircling the Survivor Tree facing the orchard reads:

To the courageous and caring who responded from near and far, we offer our eternal gratitude, as a thank you to the thousands of rescuers and volunteers who helped.

Survivor Wall

On the east end of the Memorial stand the Murrah Building’s only remaining walls. More than 600 names are inscribed on salvaged pieces of granite from its lobby (not shown).

The Fence

A corrugated fence by the Murrah Building site had served as the first memorial, and was covered in poems, key chains, car tags, and stuffed toys. A section of the fence has been preserved and is now part of the permanent memorial.

Painted Tiles

Children from around the country and the world painted tiles with expressions of encouragement and love.

For more information, visit: Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum – Official Website.


12 thoughts on “A Reflection – Oklahoma City

  1. What I find interesting is that there is a church building, off to the side of each gate. (Your first two pictures). It was a very tragic happening at the time.

    • Yes, I like the idea that the churches are looking over the memorial site. Though you bring up something that I had never thought about (until now) – and that is, whether the churches were built after the memorial, or did they withstand the attack? I will need to research, unless you know? Thanks Louis!

  2. Thank you for sharing this, Marina. I remember exactly where I was when the Oklahoma City bombing happened. I had gone to visit my father and stepmother down in Maryland for spring break my sophomore year of high school. My stepmother and I had plans to go shopping in Washington, DC that day. She canceled the plans as soon as we turned on the TV because she was afraid that there would be more bombings. I just remember feeling completely in shock. I’ve never seen the memorial, but yes — the power of it definitely translates in your post.


    • Thank you Mel. The feeling I got from the memorial is that its power resonates far and beyond. Thank you for sharing your story – it’s difficult to reflect and I am sure that this memorial has helped heal many people. I hope you manage to visit it someday.

  3. I really like the way you have captured the amazing colours and textures of the memorial. The pale blue sky and muted greens of the grass so perfectly match the building and monument tones it seems like a painting or a photo of a model. Nice!

    • Thank you Becky. The memorial is beautiful and it really stands out as a place I will never forget seeing. I think that it embodies so much without trying to do too much. It’s definitely a space that more people should learn about, and see. Are you missing Oklahoma (I read you are in Spain!)?

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