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OK, I caved. After following Route 66 to Yukon, Oklahoma, I got completely turned around. Instead of trying to find my way back to 66, I just took 40 into Oklahoma City. I knew I was heading towards the memorial, and when I came over a small hill, one of the gates came into view ahead of me. After going through the museum, I walked around the memorial, and then sat above it writing.
I'm sitting in the shade of the Survivor Tree, an American Elm, and trying desperately to think of what to write about. What words could possibly be appropriate in this place? Three years ago, I took pictures of the message on the wall behind me and of the field of chairs in front of me. Today I took none. More and more on this trip I am thinking about how cheap the medium has become. And then I see some of the images in the museum, and I think of other iconic images from history, and I remember why I have this camera with me.
I have been in places were attacks have been, where tragedies have struck. I was in the Pentagon in the summer of 2001. I know of places in Israel where I spent a lot of time that have been victimized by bombings and shootings and other attacks.
But I struggle here, trying to come to grips with this place. This is the last spot on this trip until I get to the west coast that I have seen before. From here, everything is new, uncharted. To my right, a large black gate reads 9:03, the minute after the bomb blast. A church sits beyond the gate, and flags fly all across the scene in front of me. Oklahoma has moved forward. Never forgetting, of course, but not dwelling on the past.
But I am still left with the question of what to write here, in the shadow of this tree.
Bells are ringing to symbolize the hour, and a siren wails in response to a call somewhere. The normal sounds of downtown in a major city echo all around this square. But the field in front of me is ever silent. The chairs stand for memories of loved ones lost, with whatever remains from the building preserved to one side. The new federal building, as yet unnamed, stands caddy corner to the old one, better protected and with a more modern look and feel to it.
But I still don't know what to write about here. Nothing seems to fit. Nothing comes to mind that is right for this place.
The preamble to the Memorial's mission statement is etched on the outside of the 9:03 gate: "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 only wish I could add more to that.
After leaving the Memorial, I drove north to pick up 66 again. The Mother Road is a lot more fun to drive when it isn't just a frontage road for an interstate. And my having no schedule to keep saved me money today, since I didn't have to take any of a number of Oklahoma turnpikes, instead bypassing them on 66, which today had a speed limit of 65 for most of the way.
Now sitting in Claremore, contemplating my last day in Oklahoma before heading over for 13 miles of Kansas and then into Missouri.
Pictures from the Oklahoma City National Memorial, taken on my last trip through here 3 years ago.