Sunday, December 13, 2009

Oklahoma City

My body temperature is down to 100 and I'm feeling a little better. I can keep soup down so that's good. I still can't stand for more than a few minutes without having to sit back down from nausea and it is now moving into my head, but I think I'm on the mend.

I want to take a couple days and look back at visiting Oklahoma. It is a state I never had on my list of places to see but I will be forever thankful for visiting here. You will see why these next couple days.

Entering Oklahoma City was a bit striking- We went from 60 degrees and sun to 16 degrees and sun. I had to pull everything out of my overstuffed car and dig for the long underwear.

This was the last day my aunt traveled with me so we decided to make it a full one.

My aunt had two things on this trip that she really wanted to see-
1- Murrah Federal Building (location of Oklahoma City Bombing) and
2- Cowboy Hall of Fame.

So let's go...

The lady at the hotel gave us directions to the Murrah Federal Building and told us where to park. SO rather than scope the place out first, we followed her directions and parked. We felt lucky to get a street parking spot instead of having to pay for a space in a parking lot.

There was a reason that street spot was still available...

We headed up the one block required on the map to get to the Murrah Federal Building in 16 degrees with 20-30 mph winds. Neither of us was prepared for how frigid it would be. During that block, our chins became numb, our lips turned purple, our ears could no longer hear because we were trying to protect them- which made our hands freeze, and our bodies began to shake.

Once up the one block, we came to this cement wall that said Murrah Federal Building but there were no doors. You must be kidding?? We came all this way and it is outside???

We wondered up and down cement stairs, only to find ourselves in the middle of some cement patio that was the size of a city block.
After wondering for what felt like an hour (actually about 15 minutes) we found some people walking down the sidewalk. We screamed out, "Where do we go?"

They barely pulled an arm out of their jackets and pointed around the corner.
Ahh haa...
Now, we found ourselves at the intersection of Harvey Ave and 5th street.
This is where it all took place. 5th street is now a reflection pond and at each end of the block is a large black sculpture that represents the beginning and end of the time of the bomb. One has imprinted 9:01 and the other 9:03.

The trees you see to the left are where the building stood. The rear of the building lined 5th street and the front connected to the large block-sized patio we found at first. The patio was untouched and is in perfect condition except for the edges that used to connect to the building. They are now rough, just as they were when the building broke away from them.
The bomb was felt up to 30 miles away and ended up taking down 16 buildings in the city. I didn't realize the impact of the bomb until I heard a fact in the museum that the hitch from the Ryder truck that blew up was found in a carpet store two blocks away implanted into one of the interior walls.

The museum was probably the most incredibly well done I have ever seen. They have a section of the original building from across the street preserved and it sits as it did that day after the bombing. It was never touched except to search for bodies.

The stories that were told by survivors left me speechless. One of them was of a lady that was buried alive and, with 7 stories of cement walls holding her leg down, they couldn't pull her out. There was a doctor at the scene and with his pocket knife he had to cut off her leg in order to free her.

We spent probably 3 hours inside the museum and hardly said a word to each other the entire time.

Once back outside, we got to see the incredible monuments they have made for those that lost their lives.

As you walk through the doorway in the large sculpture at the end of the reflection pond, you are greeted with these fences. They are the original fences that lined the area after the bombing and hold the memories of all the people in those buildings.
In the original spot where the building stood, 168 chairs now sit with the name of each individual that died carved into them.

This picture shows almost the whole scene. To the right is where the building stood- the pond is where 5th street was- the wall is the end of the block- and where you see the stairs on the left with a tree at the top was a parking lot filled with cars. This parking lot holds a true story of survival...
What is the definition of surviving?
In my book, it is taking all odds against you and making them reasons for you to live.
This tree represents just that. There are pictures showing it in the back yard of a home on this site as early as 1920. It survived the home being demolished to make room for city expansion. It then lived in the middle of a parking lot full of cement, not dirt, until the bombing. Then it survived a blast from a 4000 lb bomb and survived being scorched from all the cars burning below it. In the pictures right after the bombing, it had no branches and looked to be dead. Not only was it not dead, but it came back to be full of life!!

For those that wonder what happened to Timothy McVeigh (the man that is responsible for this bombing) he was put to death by lethal injection in 2001. You might ask as I did- How in the world did they find him? It was through a series of things that went right for the good people. He was stopped for not having a plate about 90 mins after the bombing but they didn't know it was him then. He was held in jail because the judge had other commitments on that day. While he was being held, investigators on the scene found the rear axle of the Ryder truck, which still held the VIN clearly readable. Also, they found the license plate from the truck still intact.

They were able to go back to the rental location and got a composit drawing of the man who rented the truck. That drawing matched the man that sat in jail.

That was just the start to Oklahoma. I will post the next stage at the Cowboy Hall of Fame tomorrow.

Have a great night!!

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