Mo & Terry Smedley


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Heartland USA by Rail
June, 2005

Part VI:  Oklahoma City

Monday, we began our exploration of Oklahoma City at the Federal Building Memorial.  The outdoor displays are impressive, but the most interesting part of the memorial was the museum and interior interpretive exhibits.  The museum is organized as a series of chapters, starting with the peaceful morning of April 19, 1995, through the explosion itself, the immediate rescue efforts, and following through the physical and emotional rebuilding, and the construction of the memorial itself.  Mo and I both thought that the memorial and exhibits did an elegant job of explaining what happened.  We spent about 2-1/2 hours at the memorial, and would have spent more time if we were going to be in town longer.

Some of the exhibits were very intense.  There is an audio tape of a hearing taking place in an adjacent building at the time of the blast.  You can hear the explosion, and the resulting pandemonium.  A collection of photographs and videos of the time immediately after the explosion is also presented.  You can see, hear, and read interviews with survivors and rescuers.  There are detailed descriptions of the rescue and recovery efforts, as well as the criminal investigation.  A portion of the adjacent Journal Record Building has been preserved exactly as it was found after the explosion, so you can see first-hand the physical damage rendered by the explosion.

For me, the most gripping part of the museum was the Gallery of Honor, which contains a photograph and some mementos of each of the 168 persons that were killed.  I found it impossible to make it all the way through this Gallery - particularly the pictures of the children killed in the daycare center was too much to handle en masse.

From the memorial, we walked to the Myriad Gardens for a walk through the Crystal Bridge.  On our way there, Jason joined up with us.  The tropical conservatory was lush with foliage and blooms.  It was plenty hot and humid inside, but worth the trip.

Next we walked to the Bricktown area of OKC for lunch.  This area consists primarily of restored warehouses now used for dining and entertainment venues.  The OKC minor league baseball stadium is here, too.  There's a version of the River Walk here, too, complete with tour barges very similar to those in San Antonio.  After lunch and a little exploration by foot, we had a quick ice cream cool down, then headed to Jason's house to check on Chica before dinner.

We enjoyed dinner with Jason, his roommate Pablo, and USAF buddy Barry.  After dinner, Jason dropped us off back in Bricktown, which we explored further in the cool of the evening.  From there, we walked back to the Federal Building Memorial, which is magnificent at nighttime.

Tomorrow morning, we'll start our overnight journey to St. Louis, with a brief layover tomorrow afternoon in Fort Worth.  Temperatures are expected to be in the upper 90's with humidity to match, so we may not do too much outdoor exploration in the afternoon hours!

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168 empty chairs memorialize those killed in the blast. A section of the original building was left as it was found to honor the survivors of the blast. The monument at one end of the pool shows "9:01", and is meant to symbolize the innocence that preceded the blast.  The other end shows "9:03", and symbolizes the events occurring after the blast at 9:02 AM.  
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"The Fence" bears tokens of remembrance that have been left by visitors. An adjacent church was destroyed during the blast.  This monument was erected by the congregation.  The inscription below the statue of Jesus reads "And Jesus Wept". Hundreds of tiles created by children across the nation are arranged in this memorial wall. This spray-painted inscription remains just as it was left by one of the recovery teams.
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The 9:01 gate. The 9:03 gate at night.    
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This is the outward-facing inscription on the 9:01 gate. Bird of Paradise (and Mo in the distance) inside the conservatory. A view of the length of the conservatory. Mo and Jason can be found peeking out from the foliage.
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A complex of waterfalls make up one end of the conservatory.   Mo and Jason found the coolest spot - down low, and next to the fan!  
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Lush green with vibrant colors.   So cute after all these years. Not all Amtrak stations are masterpieces of architecture or renovation.  This is the OKC Amtrak station, located about two blocks from our hotel.
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Bricktown, with the baseball stadium in the distance. We enjoyed lunch at "Nothing but Noodles", carefully chosen because of what was located nearby for desert. Murals along the Bricktown version of the River Walk. You can see several of the renovated brick warehouses, as well as one of the tour barges.
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Mo and Jason celebrate Kathy McGuire's  birthday (June 27) with some Marble Slab ice cream. The BNSF railroad overpass marks the entrance to Bricktown.  The Amtrak station is located right next to this, and our train to Fort Worth will take us on this overpass.