Visits to memorials are always sobering. However, for some reason I always 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. 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.; you can listen to hearing a recording of a meeting in the Murrah Federal Building, capturing ordinary proceedings until you hear the explosion at 9:02. Then comes the destruction and mass chaos afterwards, the tragedy of having to find survivors, and eventually the investigation that 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