Day 9 - Oklahoma City Memorial - August 27
Updated: May 30
We hadn't planned on going to see the Oklahoma City Memorial. We had to get on the road. We still had half the country to get across and no we had just a few days. However, so many of our friends and family said not to miss it. Since we were so close to it, (only a couple of minutes from the hotel) and since it was still early, we decided to go, and it was easily the most moving part of our whole trip.
We pulled up and parked in the shade of a large tree. As soon as we got out of the car, two things caught our eye... the tall grey metal wall with a small doorway of light and chain-link made into a shrine fence with ribbons and clothes and stuffed animals. Megan stood in front of the fence taking in every note and picture and article of remembrance.
The gateway in is really two doorways.. a dark grey doorway.
then a small space that lets the sunlight into another doorway, bathed in light, to the vast and long reflecting pool that stretches to the other tall grey wall with another open doorway hundreds of feet away. Both doors are marked with the times of day of the tragedy. The attack struck at 9:02, so the first door is marked 9:01, the moment before the attack, and the second wall on the other side of the reflecting pool is marked, 9:03, which they refer to as "the moment healing began".
There is so much to take in at the Oklahoma City Memorial. Please give yourself plenty of time to experience it all.
The hill to the right of the reflecting pool is filled with empty high-backed chairs on boxes of light bearing the names of those who would never leave the Alfred P. Murrah building. These were people. Civilians just working. They were children in daycare, happily playing with friends as their days started.
There are 168 chairs, place in nine rows, each row represents a floor in the Federal Building
where now, only a field of grass remains. Each chair remembers the name of someone who was killed on that floor. Somehow even more heartbreaking are the nineteen smaller chairs remembering the children. The whole memorial was sobering and infuriating and heartbreaking and it stirred a sense of the love of country and fierce patriotism inside me, which only intensified as we went inside the memorial museum.
Inside, you really get the feeling of the tragedy that happened there. It starts you in a "board room" where a meeting was just starting to take place. There is an audio recording of the meeting when suddenly you hear and somehow feel the explosion and the chaos that happened. The door opens and lets you it the museum and the unbelievable collection of life left behind that morning. Megan was captivated by the displays of daytimers and personal items and what really got her were the eyeglasses. Hundreds of pairs of eyeglasses stacked on a huge plexiglass display. Lost and alone.
Many other surrounding buildings were affected by that explosion but we did not have time to take it all in. Plus it was emotionally hard and very sobering. We were captivated by the church across the way. A big beautiful church, St Josephs Catholic Church, that had a statue in the rear corner. "And Jesus Wept" is the name of the beautiful white stone Jesus with one hand over his heart and one hand over his face. It is said that the black pillars around the statue represent the children and unborn babies who died as a result of the bombing that day.
We left the museum and drove deep in thought. The sun was warm and Sophie purred down the highway. Our next stop was considerably lighter and we sere still miles from Tucumcari!
Route 66 runs, as the song says, "From Chicago to L.A." John Steinbeck referred to it as Highway 66. It's also called the Will Rogers Highway, the Main Street of America, and the Mother Road. Over the years we have taken several road trips over sections of Route 66, ad we loved it, so we thought a museum dedicated to it, would be a worthwhile stop.
We pulled into the Route 66 Museum parking lot. The bright building with a large glass block wall that holds the giant red sign Route 66 Museum sign. Below that, large glass windows of a red vintage 1963 Chevy Nova SS.
The museum is just a plain good time to be in. It's a tribute to road trips and the culture of the 1950s and '60s with its highly-polished black and white floors, bright red Coca-Cola fridges, gas pumps, and car-seat benches. The self-guided tour is fun. We learned some Route 66 history, saw re-creations of 50's diners, and a collection of motel key tags. There is even a brightly colored flower child Volkswagen van that took me back my youth.. It is really a treat for anyone who grew up during that time and even more so for people who didn't grow up back then.
"Won't you get hip to this timely tip
When you make that California trip
Get your kicks on route sixty-six."
We still had a long way to go before the day was over. We planned to make it all the way to Tucumcari, New Mexico, by way of the Cadillace Ranch by nightfall. When we left the museum the day was getting warm.
There is a relatively small part of the road where Oklahoma stops and you're in Texas, before you hit New Mexico. We drove up the steadily climbing road into the heat. The clouds were gone and the sky was bright blue and the sun relentless. We kept climbing slowly. The never-ending climb through the Texas Pan Handle was hot; furnace-hot.
We arrived at a rest area with sun shelters like teepees so you could look over the view of the desert. It was a nice place to stop. There was a short fence with stars across it to overlook the view, but I chose to sit under the shade of the teepee. I felt like a kid.
Megan came back from her "rest" and jumped in. I started Sophia up, and she stalled. I stopped. We looked at each other. Then I tuned the tiny black key again.. .she started.. and stalled again in the middle of that tiny patch of Texas desert country somewhere between Oklahoma and New Mexico. Is this how it ends?