On Monday night, Florence Rogers, a survivor of the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing, gently touched a battered letter “A” with her right index finger.
That letter, as well as others on the table before her, had spelled out the name on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building where she had worked.
“You know what I'm thinking when I do that, ‘Oh my God, it's a miracle, that I'm here today,'” said Rogers, who worked in the Federal Employees Credit Union.
The bombing resulted in the deaths of 168 people.
In May, the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation unveiled plans for an updated museum that foundation officials said will better tell the story of the bombing to all generations, through video technology and with items that were not previously available, including letters from the exterior of the Murrah Building.
The “9:03 Fund” was created to support this, and the project is in the early design and fundraising stages. However, on Monday night, with Rogers looking on, memorial officials announced that they have reached the halfway point in their $15 million campaign. About $5 million of the $15 million is being raised for capital improvements.
The announcement came as museum designers Patrick Gallagher and Michal Carr, along with architect Hans Butzer, gave tours to several of the original 350 members of the task force that helped create the memorial and museum and donors who have helped fund the privately funded memorial and museum and the 9:03 Fund Campaign.
The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building occurred at 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995. At 9:03 that morning, the responsibility of remembering and educating began, said Kari Watkins, executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.
The enhancements would include the scope of the criminal investigation surrounding the bombing and will be told through video, technology and artifacts, Watkins said. Many of these items were not available in the past because of the investigation.
Also with the enhancements, the museum will introduce more than 100 new storytellers through video and technology — including many of the prosecution and defense teams from the trials.
“This story also teaches the consequences of choices made, both good and bad, and visitors will see that throughout the museum,” Watkins said.
Among items planned for display when the campaign goal is reached and the enhancements are made will be Timothy McVeigh's car. McVeigh was convicted as the building's bomber and was sentenced to death.
Gallagher said the car would be included “in an effort to show that justice was served.”
“There are so many people that worked such a long time in their life; it's amazing how city, state, federal all came together to make this happen,” he said. “And when you see that, that evidence stands as how justice was served here.”
Susan Winchester was among those taking the tour Monday night. Her sister, Peggy Clark, was killed in the bombing.
During the tour, Winchester stopped to look at the paneling from the Noble County jail that appears behind McVeigh in his mug shot. She also looked at the T-shirt he was wearing when arrested. These items were on display for Monday night's tour and will not be added until the enhancements are made.
Winchester said the story of the bombing continues, and the items will help.
“I get the chance to do the first-person stories with the kids, and I go about it from my perspective of what it meant to me, and it doesn't mean the same thing to them,” she said. “You have to make it very relevant to them. They're so into the TV shows, the ‘CSI' thing, ‘How did they catch him, and then what happened?' And that's a story you have to tell — that he was caught and he was convicted.
“It shows you he tried so hard to destroy us and to bring Oklahoma and everyone to their knees, and it didn't work.”
‘Very important story'
On that April morning, Florence Rogers held a meeting in her office. At 9:02 a.m., she leaned back in her chair, and suddenly the women across from her were no longer there.
For years, Rogers has shared her story in honor of those lost and fellow survivors.
“I once asked a little Holocaust survivor, ‘How long do you keep telling your story?'” Rogers said. “And she said, ‘As long as you keep touching lives, keep telling your story.'”
Rogers believes the enhancements are a way for the museum to keep telling “a very important story.”