The entrance to the Oklahoma City Memorial is inscribed with these words:
We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived, and those whose lives changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.
We came here at night, and when we arrived, there were no other people, just our small family of three, come to pay our respects. We didn’t expect to find comfort and wisdom. We didn’t expect to find solace for our own grief. We didn’t expect it, but it was there.
The story of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 is embedded in the American psyche, a jarring reminder that violence and tragedy can visit us at any moment, in any circumstance.
On that fateful morning, the men, women and children in the Murrah Federal Building went about their daily lives, going to work and school, just living. They had no idea that a group of crazies would decided for them that this was their day to be visited by violence, changing not only their lives, but ours as well.
Frank and I were in Japan when this happened. We turned on CNN international and were horrified by the images of destruction we saw in America’s heartland. I think as Americans, we had become immune to seeing images of devastation around the world, whether from terrorists bombs or natural disasters.
This image made us pause. A typical office building in a typical city on our home turf, not some faraway place. I spent the better part of the day glued to the television in our hotel room, waiting for more news.
In Japan, the reports were sparse and showed the same images over and over, unlike in the US, where the news coverage was relentless (or so I’m told).
We walked around the reflecting pool, with the moonlight reflecting on the water, and stopped to note the names of survivors inscribed on a granite wall.
Alongside the reflecting pool are 168 empty chairs, representing the people who died that died that day, each adorned with a wreath for Christmas. It is a beautiful, thoughtful memorial.