Thursday, March 26, 2015

Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

We drove up to Oklahoma because the Captain wanted to see the Oklahoma City National Memorial that honors the victims, survivors, rescuers, and all who were affected by the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995.

The Memorial is on the site where the building once stood . A thin layer of water flows over polished granite to form the pool  which runs east to west down the center of the Memorial.  

At one end a bronze gate shows the time at 9:01.

At the other end the bronze gate marks the time of  9:03.  The explosion happened at 9:02 on the morning of April 19, 1995. Alongside the wading pool the area is filled with empty chairs representing the 168 people who were killed.
The chairs are in nine rows representing the nine stories of the Alfred P. Murrah  Federal Building.
Each row of chairs represents the number of people who were killed on that floor.
The smaller chairs represent the children who were killed.

The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building held employees of 17 federal agencies, the Federal Employees Credit Union,  a snack bar, and a day care center.  The building was fully occupied except for the 6th floor where the Small Business Administration had just moved to another building.  

This tree is a survivor of the blast and was badly damaged.  It was planted in 1947 in a family's backyard but the area eventually became commercial property. It was the only tree to remain when a parking lot was paved around it.  On April 19th, less than 150 feet from ground zero the American Elm withstood the full force of a 4,000 pound explosion and firestorm of debris.

Today it is called the Survivor Tree and stands as the highest point on the landscape at the Memorial. 

The building adjacent to the Memorial is now the museum housing the history and artifacts of the bombing. 

This is still written on the wall of that building.

Survivors injuries ranged from minor to life threatening.  Some walked away with only scratches and bruises.  Many suffered permanent loss of vision and hearing. Some received multiple fractures or lost limbs and required months of hospitalization, reconstructive surgeries and years of physical therapy.

City, county and state emergency personnel near downtown responded immediately to the scene. Fire department companies five blocks from the scene arrived along with the police.  The Oklahoma Fire Department implemented Incident Command, its emergency response leadership, on arrival at the scene.  EMT's began treating the injured and the first patients were transported to nearby hospitals at 9:27 a.m.

Many survivors lost eyeglasses and shoes.  The explosion impaired their hearing and dust and smoke reduced visibility. Survivor Raymond Washburn, operator of Raymond's Snack Bar, helped several people find their way to safety through jagged metal, dangling concrete, live electrical wires, broken gas lines and a sea of glass shards.  Amazingly, he was able to do so even though he was blind. 

The bomb's crater and blast pattern helped investigators determine the type of bomb and size.  Before the bomb, NW 5th Street, which runs along the north side of the Murrah Building, was paved to a thickness of 21 inches total, 14 inches of asphalt plus seven inches of concrete.  After the blast, a crater eight feet deep with a diameter of 30 feet remained.  Bomb experts estimated 2,000-4,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate was needed to create such force.

The bomb exploded on the north side of the building and sheared away the building's north wall. The south wall remained heavily damaged but still standing.  No concrete walls were left to shield the north, east and west and many buildings in those directions were heavily damaged.  

A parking lot across the street filled with burning cars.

A steel door from a building a block away.

A bronze seal weighing about 300 pounds from the north entrance of the Murrah building pitted with shrapnel and warped by the bombing. 

Window blinds recovered from a damaged building one block north of the explosion site.

Nineteen of the victims were children including 15 who were in the America's Kids Daycare Center.

One of the most heartbreaking pictures was of this fireman carrying out the body of one-year old Baylee Almon.

This is her chair in the Memorial. Visitors to the Memorial often leave small gifts on the chairs of the victims including flowers, candy and coins.

Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols met in 1988 at Fort Benning during basic training for the U.S. Army.  Michael Fortier, his roommate, was another accomplice.  The three were survivalists and were angry about the FBI and the Waco siege where 76 members of the Branch Davidian died.  In fact, the police have photographs of McVeigh visiting the Waco site during the standoff and after its conclusion.

McVeigh initially intended to only destroy a federal building but later decided his message would be better received if many people were killed.  His criteria for attack sites was that the target should house at least three federal law enforcement agencies. In December, 1994, McVeigh and Fortier visited to inspect McVeigh's target, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

McVeigh and Terry Nichols purchased or stole the material they needed to manufacture the bomb and stored it in rented sheds.  Over a 15 month period small lots of ammonium nitrate were bought by Nichols using the alias "Mike Havens" and paying in cash.  It is determined he bought some 4,000 pounds of fertilizer

On April 14, 1995, McVeigh rented a truck from Ryder and drove to Oklahoma City with Terry Nichols where he parked a getaway car several blocks from the federal building.  After removing the license plate from the car he left a note covering the VIN plate which read, "Not abandoned.  Please do not tow. Will move by April 23rd. Needs battery and cable." Both men then returned to Kansas.

On April 17-18, McVeigh and Nichols removed their supplies from their storage unit and loaded the supplies into the Ryder truck.  They drove to a state park where they nailed boards onto the floor of the truck to hold 13 barrels in place and mixed the chemicals.  Each barrel weighed nearly 500 lbs. McVeigh added more explosives to the driver's side of the cargo bay which he could ignite at close range in case the primary fuses failed.

McVeigh entered Oklahoma City at 8:50 a.m.  At 8:57 a security camera at a nearby complex recorded the Ryder truck heading toward the Murrah Federal Building.  At the same moment, McVeigh lit a five minute fuse.  Three minutes later, and still a block away, he lit another two-minute fuse.  He parked the truck in a drop-off zone situated under the building's daycare center, exited and locked the truck, and dropped the keys to the truck a few blocks away as he headed to his getaway vehicle.

At 9:02 a.m. the Ryder truck containing in excess of 4,800 pounds of explosives detonated in front of the nine-story Murrah building.  The blast destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a 16-block radius.  The broken glass alone accounted for 5% of the death total and 69% of the injuries outside the building.  The effects of the blast could be felt 55 miles away and was recorded as measuring 3.0 on the Richter scale.

 McVeigh was arrested by a State Trooper within 90 minutes of the explosion as he was traveling north on I-35 in Oklahoma.  He was stopped for driving without a license plate and carrying a concealed weapon.  At the time, no one was aware that he was the bomber of the Murrah building. Federal agents found the VIN number from an axle of the truck and traced it to a specific Ryder agency.  They were quickly able to implicate McVeigh in the bombing.

After an April 21st court hearing on the gun charges, the FBI took McVeigh into custody.  They searched his father's house and found information to begin searching for Terry Nichols.  Nichols learned he was being hunted and turned himself in.   

Michael and Lori Fortier were considered accomplices for their knowledge of the planning of the bombing.  In addition to Michael assisting McVeigh in scouting the federal building, Lori had helped McVeigh laminate a fake driver's license which was used to rent the Ryder truck.  Fortier agreed to testify against McVeigh and Nichols in exchange for a reduced sentence and immunity for his wife. He was released in 2006, given a new identity, and entered the Federal Witness Protection Program. 

Timothy McVeigh was indicted on eleven federal counts, including conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction, use of a weapon of mass destruction, destruction by explosives and eight counts of first degree murder.  Found guilty, he was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001. 

Terry Nichols stood trial twice.  He was first tried by the federal government and found guilty of conspiring to build a weapon of mass destruction and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter of federal officers.  After he was sentenced to life without parole he was tried on 161 counts of first degree murder (160 non-federal agent victims and one fetus) by the State of Oklahoma.  Found guilty on all charges, he was given 161 consecutive life sentences without parole and is incarcerated in a federal prison.

The Oklahoma City Memorial is a beautiful tribute to those who were injured and died.  Viewing it in the evening at sunset is even more inspiring.  


Oklahoma City is a rapidly changing area.  In the late 90's there were many blocks of abandoned warehouses near the downtown that were in disrepair and even without  electricity.  Some forward thinking citizens changed it into a neighborhood district called 'Bricktown' with canals running through it.

Alongside the canals are shops and restaurants. 

Buildings are painted with the history of OKC.

You can take a canal boat ride, if you like.

A faithful dog waiting for his owner to come out of the shop. 

The area is called Bricktown because all the old warehouses are made of brick.
A strange looking duck enjoying the canal in Bricktown.

A beautiful view of a downtown building overlooking the canal.

A statue of Johnny Bench (who is from OKC) stands in front of the stadium for the Oklahoma City Dodgers, a minor league team.

There is also a statue of  Mickey Mantle who was from Oklahoma. 

I had to share this picture from an ice cream shop.  Notice the tails........Must be a new look! 
We also found a wonderful dog park just a few miles from where we were staying.  This strange looking animal is called a Neapolitan Mastiff.  He (she) was there with its owner and several other siblings.
The dog breed is Italian and very strange looking.  The owner is in the process of breeding the dogs for sale and is also showing them in dog shows.  They are very gentle but they drool constantly. 

Lucy and Desi had a great time and met two Great Pyrenees, one groomed and one not. 

That is all we have from our visit in Oklahoma City.  We move on now to Ozark, Arkansas, and some fun hiking the mountain trails with our pups.  Peace!

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