Monday, June 4th, 2018 - Day Visited
I haven’t been here in more than a decade. A great many things have changed in my life since then, but the feeling this place evokes remains the same. For an event that proved so tragic, there is a peace here, and a calm.
Perhaps it’s the reflecting pool, or the carefully manicured lawn surrounding the chairs representing the lives taken, or the variety of trees planted to represent those who arrived to assist Oklahoma City in their hour of need both domestically and abroad, maybe it’s the large American Elm that survived the blast and thrives today, as much a testament to resilience as the city, its people, and the families who still carry on today; I don’t know. But there is something about being here again that speaks through voices that have long since moved on and those that linger here still.
As I walk through the lobby and enter the elevator to the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum, I’m doing so with a few family members I’ve not been here with before. A second generation, much older than the last I came here with. There are some places that can be so overwhelming it’s best not to visit until you are at least old enough to drive; this is one of them. We exit along with others into a hallway, its like stepping into a prologue. I’ve been here before. I know what’s ahead, or think I do anyway.
Eventually an electronic door opens and with a group we enter a room. The room is designed so that the visitor hears the sounds of what was taking place that day. What happens next I will not completely reveal out of respect for those that have never visited, but when the doors open on the other side, the layout can leave one as confused as shocked.
Hours later, having walked through the course of events that led up to, during, and through the aftermath that followed the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, I stood in line to sign the visitors log along with many others. I had much to write about, but found myself signing only my name.
Outside, looking down the fence filled with prayers, pictures, flowers, and the like, I can’t get so many of the images out of my mind, but I keep locking on the concrete rubble, also encased behind glass upstairs in the museum. How I wish every elected official worldwide had to hold one of the heavier pieces of that broken concrete, especially those who seek to start wars within our species. I want them to feel the weight. I want them to recognize the weight (even if the tiniest of fractions) of the destruction that fractures out well beyond the ruins left behind through the lives taken and those who somehow continue on. As I continued walking down the fence I realized calmness and peace had been replaced with sorrow, but nothing on the level that others must have experienced, if not to some degree experience still.
Across the street is a statue of Jesus standing with his back turned away from the memorial. His head is bent, his face buried in his hand; he is weeping. We, like many visitors, passed this statue on our way in, but what gave reason for pause at first glance, now gives far more reason to stand for a bit and contemplate.
I realize human emotions coupled to our differences can lead to tragedies beyond measure, and that understanding such varying points of view can often prove an impossible task for all sides, but at some point we are all going to have to learn to lead with understanding, instead of being lead by one-sided, thoughtless reaction (even if well planned) to actions that seek to intimidate if not provoke.
A hundred plus thousand years of repeating the same mistake, you would think our species would have learned by now. It’s been over two thousand years since the man represented by the statue gave his life attempting to teach a better way and he isn’t alone in this task.
When will we learn?