Sunday, 15 March 2015

Oklahoma City National Memorial

When we arrived in Oklahoma City yesterday, my plan was to find a motel in the north of the city, check in and settle for the night. Then a funny thing happened. I felt like driving a bit further, suggesting to Katherine that we would get a place south of the city instead. In reality I felt good enough to drive all the way to Dallas; I think I have finally gotten over my "elevator" stuff.

As we passed the city, Katherine mentioned the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the memorial commemorating the 189 people who died when Timothy McVeigh bombed the Murrah some 20 years ago next month, it what was then one of the worst acts of terrorism in US history and is still one of the worst acts of domestic terrorism this country has ever seen. She said she wanted to see it; I said absolutely. So into town we went.

The downtown area of Oklahoma City is not all that large. While we didn't know where the memorial was, we did have our GPS, which promptly took us to the wrong place. We used my phone GPS and it managed to get us to the memorial site. We parked across the street. I took a few minutes to check out some hotel options; Katherine got out right away, crossing the street from our parking spot, immediately immersing herself in this experience.

It's hard to explain the feelings I had when I finally went across the street. The memorial has 189 "empty chairs", one for each person killed in the blast. The afternoon light was shining through the glass bases of the chairs, giving each its own glowing light. The long shadows cast a deepening hue on the scene, with the dark steel and granite becoming even darker with the low slung sun. The reflecting pond, the centerpiece of the memorial, took on a rich black colour in the shadowy light.

Each end of the memorial is blocked with a large entry gate with the time cut into the sheet black steel frame. At the west end, the time is 9:01; at the east end, the time is 9:03. The reflecting pond represents the time of 9:02, the exact moment of the blast, a moment we all should reflect on.

It is hard to imagine the mind that could conceive of this, of killing innocent men, women and children in the name of a poorly defined idea, in the name of personal anger, in the name of vengeance. It is harder still to imagine the mind of the person who could complete this act. Yet we all must remember that, even today, we are engaged in this same kind of killing, this same kind of terror. The only difference is that we call it a war. In any conflict, it is always the innocent who pay the highest price, as did the 189 people that day in April 1995.

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