Remembering tragedy: OKC bombing memories still strong 24 years later

By Chelsea Weeks and Loren Rhoades, Editor-In-Chief and Assistant Features Editor

“I was actually walking out to come to work that morning and heard it. You could hear it from that far away.”

– Bobby Cox, baseball coach and assistant professor of KAL

April 19, a day of sorrow and remembrance for many Oklahomans. On that date 24 years ago, ex-army soldier Timothy McVeigh parked a Ryder rental truck in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The truck contained a fertilizer bomb that after being detonated led to the death of 168 people and the injury of over 650 others.

Until September 11, 2001, McVeigh’s act of violence and terrorism was the deadliest attack to ever occur in the United States.

For most students on OBU’s campus, the April 19th bombing is an event that occurred before their birth, but for some OBU faculty and staff members, it is a day they will always remember.

“I was actually walking out to come to work that morning and heard it,” baseball coach and assistant professor of KALS, Bobby Cox said. “You could hear it from that far away.”

Cox said the baseball team was supposed to compete against Oklahoma City the next day but canceled the game due to the tragedy. The team rescheduled the game for a few days later and witnessed the wreckage on their way there.

“So, you’re driving across town and you could see it was still smoking at the time,” Cox said. “The interstate was raised at that point so you could see down in there and it was just like total silence.”

Different professors on campus said it was a time filled with questions for Oklahomans as well as for students on Bison Hill.

“If I had to describe it, it was just a lot of confusion,” HHP professor Dr. Norris Russell said. “There was a lot of ‘why?’ and ‘what’s the deal?’ It took a while for the whole situation to finally unravel.”

Although the event caused a large amount of heartache, it also brought people closer together. People from all over the U.S. were heading toward OKC to see how they could help in some way.

Professor of history Dr. Carol Humphrey said there were also OBU students with the desire to aid those who were affected by the bombing.

“There were a lot of students at the time who weren’t from Oklahoma, so they were shocked by it, but they also wanted to see if there was a way to help out,” Humphrey said. “So, I think in some ways it did bring people together in ways that had not been true before.”

The Murrah Building bombing changed the lives of so many forever. In response to the domestic terrorist act, U.S. President Bill Clinton signed the Oklahoma City National Memorial Act of 1997, which established the site as a National Memorial. A task force of over 350 people was assigned by Oklahoma City mayor Ron Norick to memorialize those who were lost in the attack.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial was formally dedicated April 19, 2000, five years after the bombing. The Museum was dedicated a year later February 19, 2001. The mission statement of the Memorial was to “remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever.”

The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial consists of a multitude of elements to honors those who were lost.

Twin bronze gates frame the entrances to the memorial. 9:01 is found in the eastern gate and represents the last moments of peace. 9:03 is found on the western gate and represents the first moments of recovery.

In between these two gates lie the Reflecting Pool, a thin layer of water running over black granite. Those who peer into the Reflecting pool are supposed to see “a face of a person changed by domestic terrorism.”

168 empty chairs made from bronze, glass and stone can be found south of the Reflecting Pool. Etched in each chair is the name of a lost father, mother, brother, sister – a family member, a victim of hatred. The chairs were designed to represent an empty chair at the dinner table of a victim’s family.

In the southwest corner, the only remnants of the Murray Building have been transformed into the Survival Wall. Granite salvaged from the Murray Building has been inscribed with the names of over 800 survivors.

The 112-year-old American Elm that used to offer shade to vehicles, was damaged from the blast. Evidence of the attack was found in the branches and bark of the old tree. Many thought it would be lost, but a year later it began to bud and continue to grow. Its determination to survive mirrors the determination of those impacted by the attack.

On the anniversary of the attack, seeds from the Survivor Tree are sent across the country to be planted. For the 22nd anniversary in 2017, a Survivor Tree seed was planted right here on Bison Hill and can be found south of Raley Chapel.

The 33,000 square foot Memorial Museum strives to tell the story of the horrific domestic attack and the hope that followed after.

The cost is $15 for adults, $12 for students and free for children under fi ve. People from all over the country come to visit the site and get involved.

The 16th Annual Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon will take place Sunday, April 28, 2019. There will be a variety of races available for all individuals including a full and half marathon, a 5k, a kids marathon and a relay marathon. For more information about the race or to sign

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