OKLAHOMA CITY — The office clock displayed in the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is frozen at 9:02 and 37 seconds.
It marks a passage in history, the day Oklahoma City — and the whole country — changed forever. At that moment April 19, 1995, Americans realized that if Oklahoma City wasn't safe from a terrorist bomb blast, no place was.
Then recently, Oklahoma was struck again, this time by nature in the form of a monster tornado. The museum-memorial complex was not damaged by the tornado that ravaged suburban Oklahoma City on May 20, though it may be a factor in recovery. The museum maintains programs that help young people cope with tragedy, and the storm certainly produced a large group in need of support.
Ten young lives were among the 24 taken in the storm; 19 children 6 or younger were killed in the 1995 bombing by a domestic terrorist.
The memorial and museum are on the site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, destroyed by the truck bomb that day. And despite the raw evil of that act, the memorial is an inspiring place to visit, with stories of courage and hope among the firefighters, police officers and volunteers who fought to save people trapped in the rubble.
The galleries recall the bombing's immediate aftermath: confusion, chaos and the realization that the ear-busting sound was not a tornado or a boiler explosion. Glass from the Murrah Building fell for 10 minutes like rain in a prairie thunderstorm. In the Gallery of Honor is a memorial rotunda with photos and personal artifacts of most of the 168 killed. Those include a charm bracelet, a Barney soap dish and a child's palette and paintbrush.
The victims also are remembered outdoors in a field of empty chairs. The glass base of each is marked with a victim's name.
One survivor remains at the site, however: a 90-year-old elm, standing as a symbol of Oklahoma's resilience.
Information: 888-542-4673, oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org