On April 19, 1995, at 9:02 a.m., a bomb went off in front of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City, OK. This event would kill 168 people, and would be considered the deadliest domestic terrorist attack in American history. In the modern age where it seems that a terrorist attack happens every single day, this seems like it is just another unspeakable tragedy. But this tragedy changed the precedent for the entire country, changing domestic policy and eventually leading to the creation of the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which has been said by critics to be “surely one of the worst statutes ever passed by Congress and signed into law by a President.” It changed the definition of habeas corpus and made getting an appeal much more difficult.
The Murrah Building served many purposes, making it a prime target. The building contained offices of the Social Security Administration, the United States Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF). It also housed recruiting offices for the Army and Marine Corps, a credit union, and the Department of Veterans Affairs vocational rehabilitation counseling center. Finally, it housed a daycare for the children of the 550 employees who worked in the building.
The primary bomber was Timothy McVeigh, a veteran of the Gulf War. Why did he do it? He was angry about the way that the United States government handled the 1993 Waco Siege, and planned his attack to take place exactly two years after that event. He is the only terrorist that the United States government has ever put to death. He parked a truck in front of the building filled with 4,800 pounds of explosive. He had an accomplice who was sentenced to life in prison.
The building was demolished a month later due to danger caused by the lack of remaining structural integrity. One wall remains to this day at the memorial that was built where the building once stood, as well as one of my favorite trees in the world, the Survivor Tree. This tree is almost a century old, and survived the bombing, collecting a great deal of rubble and evidence in its branches. Each year, seeds are harvested from this tree and distributed all across the country to those who want to remember with a tree of their very own.
We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.
I first saw the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial at the age of 12, and it changed my view of the world. Seeing the Field of Empty Chairs (shown below) gave me a perspective for a number so large. There is an empty chair for every person who died from the bombing, with the chairs of the 19 children smaller than the others. The Reflecting Pool next to it, surrounded by the Gates of Time, labeled 9:01 and 9:03, represent the moments before and after the bombing.
To learn more or donate, I encourage you to check out the Oklahoma City National Memorial website.