A few weeks ago, Tyler and I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial at night. Since I've been an adult, I've been to the memorial in the day time, but have not visited after dark.
For my readers who are unaware about the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, here is a little back story. On April 19, 1995, two men planned a bombing using a truck and explosives parked near the building, and set it off in the morning by the Murrah federal building. The explosion and collapsed building resulted in the loss of 168 lives, including 19 children who were in a daycare on the second floor.
The memorial is in the place of the former Murrah building. It consists of two walls representing the moments before and after the explosion, and a reflecting pool between the walls that represents the moment the explosion happened. Off to the side of the reflecting pool are 168 chairs representing each life lost.
The 19 children are represented by smaller chairs, and each chair's location is determined by which floor each person was in the building.
Although Tyler and I were only five years old when this occurred, it is something that all Oklahoma children our age can recall. Not only can we remember the images of the building and rescue crews from the news, but for many subsequent years at school each student was asked to bring 168 pennies to help fund building the OKC National Memorial. Each anniversary I remember bringing my 168 pennies to school and we would take a moment of silence to remember their lives prior to turning the pennies in to our teachers.
When I was older, probably middle school or high school, I went with classmates to the museum inside the national memorial. The museum has pieces of the original building, as well as video interviews with survivors, family members, and rescue crews. One entire exhibit is dedicated to each child who lost their life, which is particularly moving. Their families donated a few toys or belongings of each child - I remember it felt strange that I often had some of the same toys as these children.
I believe this was the first time I saw and understood what we now know as the Oklahoma Standard - when the community comes together in moments of crisis with great generosity. I continued to see this throughout my life as Oklahoman's responded to various towns and neighborhoods destroyed by tornadoes, and Oklahoma's response to other catastrophic events in the state and nation.
Do you recall any major events that shaped the culture you grew up in, or an event in your childhood that changed you?