We visited the Memorial of the Oklahoma City bombing on Thursday, and it saddens me how oddly fitting that visit now is given Friday’s rather similar tragedy in Norway.
Visits to memorials are always sobering but for some reason I find the collection of objects left by the dead especially heart wrenching. This has been true for me at any visit to a concentration camp memorial, and again in Oklahoma City the cases of keys, glasses, shoes, briefcases, day planners etc. had me swallowing tears.
The exhibit reconstructs the timeline of events by taking the visitor through the innocent morning of April 19, 1995 at 9:01 a.m., to hearing a recording of a meeting in the Murrah Federal Building which captured ordinary proceedings until you hear the explosion at 9:02, to the destruction and mass chaos afterwards, to the tragedy of having to find survivors, to the investigation that eventually convicted the perpetrators. I was touched to find that one of the many investigators had eloquently expressed the tragedy of the items left behind:
“We set up containers for money. We set up containers for documents. We set up containers for personal belongings. As we were sifting through, we might find a coffee cup. We might find a purse or a briefcase. We might find a Social Security card. Each time you’d pick up a personal item of some type, you’d catch yourself wondering, ‘Who did this belong to?’ or ‘Gee, I hope that person made it.’ You’d pick up a personal belonging, and it’d have on it ‘love’ from some relative, and it kind of kept you thinking. Every piece had a story.”
Trooper Fred Horn, bomb technician