By Emma Krasov, photography by Emma KrasovI could never imagine that an empty room with a two-minute recording of a court proceeding would become a memory so powerful, every time I think about it, my eyes are tearing up. A visit to the Oklahoma City National Memorial, dedicated to the victims, survivors, and rescuers of the Oklahoma City Bombing, starts in this reconstruction of a hearing room in the Journal-Record Building, formerly adjacent to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building destroyed by the bomb at 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995.On a regular workday morning, the court was in session, the tape recorder was running, and 168 people in the building, including 19 children in the day care center on the second floor, were living the last two minutes of their lives. Timothy McVeigh, an army veteran and a security guard, angry with the government, was setting off a home-made explosive device in his rented truck parked in front of the building.The visitors to the Memorial hear the blast and the screams recorded on tape that day, and then the door opens to the museum display of the office walls and ceiling collapsed in the explosion, personal items recovered from the ruin, photographs of the victims, and media coverage from around the globe.The Oklahoma City National Memorial, created on the site of the tragedy “to honor the victims, survivors, rescuers, and all who were changed forever on April 19, 1995,” includes the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial – rows of 168 lighted chairs, 19 of them of a smaller size, along the Reflecting Pool in the middle of the green lawn.Oklahoma City, spanning 621 square miles, is one of the most fascinating among large metropolitan areas in terms of history and geography. It was founded in a single day on April 22, 1889.
In response to President Benjamin Harrison’s proclamation which opened Indian Territory to settlement, 10,000 people from near and far participated in the Land Run to claim their piece of unassigned land in the newly-born Oklahoma City.Incorporated in 1890, it became the fastest growing city, admitted to the Union in 1907. In 1928 it hit oil, discovered within the city limits and even under the State Capitol, and the growth continued.National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum on Persimmon Hill in Oklahoma City presents collections of Western art and archival materials dedicated to historical traditions, peoples and cultures of the area.
Outdoor sculptures throughout the museum grounds are surrounded by trees, flowers, ponds, and streams. Inside, there are galleries of American Cowboy, Frontier West, American Rodeo, Native American, Fine Firearms, and others, many opening with a monumental sculpture. One of the most prominent examples of it, End of the Trail, by James Earle Fraser, is located in the enormous atrium of the museum.In downtown, among the beautiful Art Deco buildings, there is the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, built entirely with private funds, and located in the Donald W. Reynolds Visual Arts Center. Its comprehensive collection, mostly of the 19th and 20th century and contemporary art includes the world’s largest Dale Chihuly glass sculpture – the 55-foot Eleanor Blake Kirkpatrick Memorial Tower in the Museum's atrium.Myriad Botanical Gardens, started by oil and gas proprietor Dean A. McGee, opened in 1988 as a large downtown urban park featuring a landmark Crystal Bridge Tropical Conservatory designed by I. M. Pei. 224-foot long glass hothouse hosts exotic plants from rainforest, tropical islands, and desert.
In 1993, the Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) further enriched the downtown area with a new baseball park, library, convention center and fairgrounds, and a canal running through the Bricktown entertainment district.Staying at the majestic Renaissance Hotel, I walked to Bricktown and hailed a water taxi for a joy ride to the Centennial Land Run Monument, a huge group sculpture-in-progress which will be one of the largest freestanding bronzes in the world upon completion.
Its already installed pieces – life-size horses and riders are impressive enough, but in 2015 the Land Run procession will extend to 365x36x16 feet.
On the banks of the Bricktown canal, there are dozens of casual and upscale restaurants, shops, bars, and live music venues, and if you look closer, some commemorative street signs... Do You Realize?? (Some consider it a state song of Oklahoma).Find more information about visiting Oklahoma City at: www.visitokc.com.