On April 19, 1995 a domestic terrorist drove a truck loaded with explosives up to the front of the 9 story Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and parked it there and walked away. Minutes later, at 9:02 am, as meetings were starting and people were just sitting down at their desks or getting coffee and chatting with co-workers, the bomb exploded. 168 people were killed, 19 of those were children. Six hundred and eighty more were injured. The day care center for the building was on the second floor at the front of the building. It took the brunt of the impact and was buried when the stories above it collapsed. The terrorist was well aware of the layout of the building. He meant to inflict maximum pain and injury to the employees of the federal government and killing the children played into that plan.
One of the main themes of the Museum is how Oklahoma City pulled together to deal with the chaos, confusion and heartbreak and then began to heal.
The Museum was in the renovated Journal Record Building. It was next door to the Murrah Building and was damaged to the point it had to be completely reconstructed. In addition to these two buildings the blast damaged or destroyed another 324 buildings in a 16 block radius and shattered glass in another 258 nearby buildings. Eighty-six cars were damaged or burned. The Murrah Building was completely razed and the Memorial is now constructed in its place.
1.) The entrance at what would have been the rear of the building is called the Gates of Time 9:01 – it represents the innocence of Oklahoma City before the bombing. (2.) The entrance at what would have been the front of the building is the Gates of Time 9:03, the time the healing began. (3.) Reflecting pool runs the depth of the lot. (4.) The field of empty chairs – each chair represents one of the people killed. A name is etched on each chair. The chairs are arranged in nine rows that represent the nine stories of the building. A chair is placed in each row depending on the floor on which the person was killed. (5.) The 19 smaller chairs represent the 19 children that died. (6.) Portions of the foundation was left in place. (7.) The former Journal Records Building next door to the Memorial houses the Museum. (8.) The Survivor Tree, now nearly 100 years old, stood beside the Murrah Building and survived the blast. It represents strength and resilience. (9.) A place for quiet contemplation overlooking the Memorial. (10.) The Rescuer’s Orchard was planted to represent the people who rushed in to help. (11.) Children’s Plaza at the entrance to the Museum. A wall of hand-painted tiles from children around the world testifies to the caring and concern from people around the world.
1.) Construction of The Alfred P. Murrah Building began in 1974 and opened in 1977. The American Institute of Architects named it one of Oklahoma’s 10 Best Buildings in 1983. (2.) Damage done (3.) Top: shoe recovered from the rubble belonging to Ashley Eckles, one of the children killed in the bombing (4.) Visitors to the museum walked through floor to ceiling pictures and displays of the damage from the bombing (5.) 300 lbs. bronze seal from the side of the Murrah Building, pitted and warped from the blast (6.) One third of the building was blown away and then collapsed (7, 8, 9.) An estimated 646 people were inside the Murrah Building that day – 163 of those killed were in the Murrah Building. 108 of the dead worked for the Federal Government (DEA – 5; Secret Service – 6; HUD – 35; Dept. of Agri. – 7; Customs – 2; General Services Admin. – 2; Social Security Admin. – 40; FHWA – 11) (10.) Cell phones were uncommon at the time. First responders relied on pagers/beepers. (11.) But many people came as soon as they heard of the potential mass injuries on television. One first responder died: a nurse that had entered the building and helped one person out, stabilized them and went back in. She was hit in the head by falling debris and kept working but eventually had to go the the hospital and died later. Responders found that almost everyone was found, either alive or dead, within about 8′ of where they were last known to be. The survivors identified potential locations of victims and search and recovery crews knew where to look. (12, 13, 14) Another aid to the recovery works was a computer simulation that was run showing how the building would have collapsed and where, serving as a map as to where bodies may be found. (15.) Very early in the investigation the license plate to the truck and the VIN number connected the truck to a Ryder rental truck rented by the terrorist under an assumed name. The terrorist was stopped within 90 minutes of the bombing by a law enforcement officer for a missing license plate on his get-away car. When stopped he had a non-permitted concealed weapon and was taken in and held for further investigation on that weapons violations. (16.) The authorities were able to follow the path of the terrorist and his accomplice. A third man and his wife were involved on a much smaller scale. (17.) Message at the exit of the Museum. (18.) Memorabilia left for the victims by visitors all over the world.
Eventually the terrorist was convicted and executed by lethal injection. His conspirator was sentenced to 161 consecutive life sentences. A third accomplice was sentenced to 12 years in prison for helping the terrorist scope out the Federal Building. This third accomplice’s wife also helped the terrorist laminate a fake driver’s license. The wife never served time. The third accomplice and his wife are now living under the witness protection program with new identities because they cooperated with the authorities and testified against the terrorist and his accomplice.
The reason the terrorist performed these atrocities was because he was mad about the FBI’s handling of Ruby Ridge and the Waco Siege that resulted in the deaths of 76 Branch Davidians.