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    Published 1-14-2020

    Oklahoma City is filled with interesting places to visit. There is one that is not a fun quest but no one should pass it by without stopping. The Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum walks you through one of the most horrific acts committed in modern history. It takes you day by day and even minute by minute though the events on April 19, 1995 when a homegrown terrorist took the lives of 168 innocent people, 19 of which were children with the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

    The Memorial Museum is in the former Journal Record Building which is on the corner next to where the federal building once stood. The Journal Record for the most part withstood the bombing. Today it retells the story of that day so it will never be forgotten.  It's the little thing so often overlooked that are most poignant. The crumbled rubble all around, yet a filled coffee pot remained on a table almost untouched. A briefcase found amid the rubble belonging to a woman is displayed making you wonder what inside that briefcase had brought her to the federal building --and her death—that fateful day.

    You enter and find yourself at the start of everyday business in Oklahoma City. The Murrah Federal Building is opening for business. Officials have returned from a prayer breakfast where ironically the keynote speech was "Pray for Those in Authority." Everything is boringly normal.

    Yet the museum shows that there were clues. In March of 1993 when the Wako Standoff occurred, a young journalism student from Southern Methodist University, Michelle Rauche, went to Waco. She had no press credentials but got her story by interviewing people at the scene. One she interviewed is a young man who tells her, “The government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people. You give them an inch and they take a mile. I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. Government is continually growing bigger and more powerful, and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control.” That young man was Timothy McVeigh. It was no coincidence that the Oklahoma City bombing occurred on the second anniversary of the end of the Waco Standoff.

    There are artifacts retrieved from the wreckage, photos, informational placards and interactive exhibits that tell the story of an event that should never be forgotten. span> There are photos of the Federal building and adjourning buildings as they were at 9am that morning. The YMCA Day Care had 53 kids present; America's Kids Day Care had 21. Emergency Medical Services Authority began a class on paramedic training. The Employee Credit Union just opened. Just another day. Then two minutes later all Hell broke out.

    You walk into a exhibit displaying the rubble and destruction. Actual artifacts like a piece of a street light, crumbled mini blind from an office window, and a clock stopped at 9:02 are displayed.

    One placard shows one of the early rescues. Dr. Brian Espe, a veterinarian with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the morning was just beginning in a meeting room on the fifth floor of the Murrah Federal Building when the bomb tore the facility apart.  He survived by ducking under a table. He waited until all the others were brought down the fire truck extension ladder and then began a terrifying descent to safety. Espy was frightened of heights. Firefighter Mark Mulman coaxed Espe who sat on the ladder and inched down.  SSeven of his co-workers were not so lucky. They died in the explosion.

    So many of the stories told at the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum do not have an happy ending. One young mother, Daina Bradley, was coming to the federal building to get a social security card for her new son. She was accompanied by her two children, her mother, and sister. The explosion trapped her beneath a huge cement beam. After hours of rescuers attempting to free her with the rescue team being pulled out by a possible second bomb scare, they decided it was impossible to free her. The only solution was to amputate on site. Dr. Andy Sullivan, an orthopedic surgeon begins the procedure only to have to evacuate once more at 1:48 for another bomb scare. After the "All Clear" he returns and finished the operation. His emergency tools fail and he completed the amputation with a pocket knife. Bradley is rushed to the hospital and survives. Her children and mother are killed. Her sister survives with a serious injury. The cord used for a tourniquet, surgical knife, and pocket knife are on display here./p>

    Throughout the day other rescue groups and individuals join the firefighters, police, sheriff department, and other local rescuers but it seems that even nature seems to conspire against the rescuers. By 8:30 that evening, a severe thunderstorm with wind gusts up to 45 mph envelopes the city. In spite of all this the last known survivor is removed from the wreckage by 10:30. There is a Gallery of Honor with the photos and information about the victims.

    TThere's an exhibit about the heroic rescue dogs that helped save lives and find bodies amid the rubble. Aleta Biddy's body was one found by rescue dogs, Gunny and Arlo. The grateful family allowed the dogs to be seated at the funeral.

    One portion of the rubble caused by the bombing is preserved behind glass so you see the actual damage not just exhibits. It's a powerful reminder of the havoc one madman can create.

    The museum takes the visitor all the way through the trials of the madmen who perpetrated this tragedy. There's a neon sign from the Dreamland Motel in Kansas where McVeigh planed the bombing. Ironically, by the time the FBI figured out who was responsible for the bombing, they found McVeigh already in jail. He had made a stupid mistake in not having a valid license plate on his yellow Mercury Marquis. An observant Oklahoma State Trooper had pulled him over, found him carrying a concealed gun, and arrested him just 80 miles out of Oklahoma City less than two hours after the bombing.

    Investigations lead to a monster-partner, Terry Nichols. The two monsters had been buddies in the army. A third conspirator, Michael Fortier, worked out a plea deal and agreed to testify in exchange for a lesser penalty. He was sentenced to only 12 years in prison.

    McVeigh was sentenced to death and executed in 2001. I believe even hardcore anti-death-penalty activist could not reasonable argue he didn’t deserve that.  When Nichols went to trial, in both federal and state trials, juries deadlocked on the penalty section. Although there was proof he helped buy the explosives and rent the truck; he didn’t actually set the bomb off.  Nichols was then sentenced to 161 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.

    One of the placards near the end of the museum is a statement by Judge Steven Taylor who could not impose the death sentence after the jury's deadlock.pan>  He said, "I find it very ironic that the very government that you profess to hate is the very government that assured you got a fair trial and guaranteed your rights."

    The spot where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and other buildings destroyed in the blast are now the Field of Empty Chairs, Reflecting Pool and Rescuer’s Orchard.

    Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum is a transformative experience. You enter a visitor:  you leave a participant.

    For more info:  https://oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org/

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

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