Sunday, March 28, 2010

Where Were You?

Nothing can prepare you for the emotions you are going to experience at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. Not having visited other solemn memorials, not thinking that you know the story, not having become jaded with all of the tragedies that have come since.

I have been struggling with how to blog this portion of my visit to Oklahoma City. It is a site no one should miss, whether you are traveling to Oklahoma City for business, a leisure visit, group tour, or if you have to detour miles out of your way. It is hard. Even now I am having difficulty in writing about it, but it is something every American should do.

Where were you? I was at home in my living room, enjoying the quiet after my children had left for school. The first reports were sketchy, lulling one into a sense of complacency that it was minor, an accident, nothing out of the ordinary among the myriad other news stories in what was the adolescence of the 24-hour news cycle.

The first thing you will see as you approach the doors of the museum is the childrens area. It is already hard. The messages scrawled on the walk at first impart a sense of innocence, children at play. Except when you read the messages, they are words that no child should have to write, should know how to write. Children remembering other children whom they have never known, will ever know.

From this point onward in the museum, no photography is allowed, and with good reason. This solemn memorial should never be trivialized by travel photography, no matter how well meaning. Go to their website, pick up the brochure that the memorial has published, purchase memorabilia. Share the experience through those who know what this tragedy means and how the survivors and loved ones wish the memory to be shared.
Outside on the east is the 9:01 wall. All is right with the world.
On the west is the 9:03 wall. In between... What you experience in between is up to you. I won't try to explain my experience, and yours will be personal to you.
The survivor tree. This tree withstood the blast, and contrary to all that is natural, began to bud once again following the fires that engulfed it. On this late March morning, it was budding once again, giving a visual reminder to the promise at 9:03 that healing and hope will come.
As we left, children once again were renewing the messages of love and compassion to all the world.
I don't personally know anyone who was affected by the Oklahoma City bombing, yet I am moved by this memorial in a way that I didn't expect. It is more than a static monument. It is a living memorial, a reminder of the warm, vibrant, vital people who lost their lives on that day, a way we can extend our compassion to those who carry on without them, and a commemoration to the spirit of a people and a city who responded to the tragedy with the Oklahoma Standard. It is a standard we all would do well to strive to live up to.

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