At 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, a huge explosion ripped off half of Oklahoma City’s Murrah building and killed 168 people, injured more than 800, and damaged or destroyed more than 300 other buildings. The site of the bombing is now the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial includes a reflecting pool anchored by massive Gates of Time marked 9:01 and 9:03, framing the moment of destruction. Next to the pool is the Field of Empty Chairs, each bearing the name of a victim, on the footprint of the Murrah building.
Just walking around the outdoor area (beautifully lit at night) is moving, but to really immerse yourself in the event and its aftermath, plan on spending an hour or two inside the 50,000-square-foot Memorial Museum. Guests walk the sequence of events chronologically, starting with the official recording of an April 19, 1995, Oklahoma Water Resources Board Meeting. The tape starts at 9 a.m. with a routine meeting; minutes later, the explosion changes everything.
Exhibits chronicle the confusion and chaos in the minutes after the bombing, rescue and recovery efforts, funerals and mourning, the investigation and conviction of Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, and rebuilding efforts. Videos show news footage from the event and interviews with survivors, rescuers and family members. Rubble from the bombing is a vivid reminder of the devastating scene.
For us, the most emotional room was the Gallery of Honor with shadowboxes full of photos and special items selected by family members in memory of those who died. A mother is pictured with the children she would never see again; a photo of a toddler sits behind a tiny shoe. Visits conclude on a positive note with symbols of hope, including origami cranes like those sent to Oklahoma City from around the world.