Remembering Oklahoma City

by Melissa Brunner

Last August, I had my first chance to visit the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. Several of us on a Chamber of Commerce trip went out for a morning jog and decided to end where the Murrah Federal Building once stood.

It's the sort of spot that makes you slow to a walk. It's with a certain reverence that you approach the wall overlooking the former footprint of the building. Portions of the outer walls remain and gates stand at each end. One signifies the moment before the bombing, the other the moment after. In the center is a reflecting pool, representing the blast itself. Chairs sit nearby, 168 of them, one for each victim. 19 of the chairs are smaller than the rest - they are the chairs representing the children who were killed. A large tree also stands at the site. It's called the "Survivor's Tree," since it's about the only part of the original landscaping that survived. Every part of the memorial has meaning. It gives you pause to consider how someone could hate their own nation so much as to unleash such destruction. Also on display at the site are photos of bomb-ravaged building, it's side gaping open, much like the attack gashed a hole in the heart of the nation.

I was producing the morning news in Green Bay when the attack happened. I'd already finished work for the day, went home, took a nap, and woke up to the news reports. The images of the children who'd been in the daycare especially tore at your heart. A little over a year later, I would move to Kansas and soon learn a lot more of the story leading up to the attack.

As years go by, it's interesting to see how much attention is paid to these anniversaries. Sixteen years after the attack, the national networks no longer descend on the area. There are no live cut-ins for the nation to join the moment of silence. It is a footnote on the day. Perhaps. Perhaps it is remembered just as vividly, just not as much in the forefront. I posted on social media that I was looking at file stories of the event and immediately received a note from my friend Clint in Oklahoma City who said he could really feel the emotion of the day and saw a large crowd gathered at the memorial site. Another woman told me she lived in OKC at the time and remembers how scary those moments were when no one was certain what was happening.

What do you remember about the day? And, perhaps more importantly, what do you hope we never forget?


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