Out of the destruction of the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City bombing have come remembrance and education at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.
On Wednesday, a symbolic wall-breaking was held to kick off enhancements to the memorial museum.
Donors to the “9:03 Fund” and many other supporters of the national memorial with sledge hammers in hand took a swing at a wall in what will be the new location of the “Gallery of Honor.” The bombing resulted in the deaths of 168 people and in this room are tributes to each who died.
At Wednesday's ceremony, Susan Winchester, chairman of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation Board of Trustees, said phase one of a five-part construction project has begun.
Winchester spoke about the importance of remembrance and education out of destruction.
“Today we are breaking down walls, symbolic in a couple of ways,” she said. “We are embarking on a $7 million, 11-month, five-phase project, to add artifacts and stories that weren't available to us 14 years ago when the museum was originally designed.
“And we're breaking down walls as we teach a new generation of students who weren't even alive in 1995 when the bomb exploded killing 168 people, including my sister, Dr. Peggy Clark.”
Winchester said the story must be told so visitors understand the senselessness of violence along with “the dozens of lessons learned.”
“Our city, our state and our nation are in a very different place than they were nearly 19 years ago,” Winchester said. “Our children learn very differently, and we are about keeping the story relevant, so that children even as young as some of those you see here today can begin to understand what we all learned on April 19, 1995.
“This room will be aligned with 168 display boxes with pictures of each person killed and special artifacts selected by their families. Interactive computers will allow visitors to learn about each of these people and hear stories about them from their loved ones.”
The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building occurred at 9:02 a.m. 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 will include a change to almost every area of the museum, Watkins said. While the core story does not change, it will be enhanced with the use of new artifacts, evidence from the trial and new technology.
There also will be a second-floor glass overlook “allowing us to integrate the museum with the outdoor symbolic memorial,” Watkins said.
On Wednesday, Winchester introduced Patrick Gallagher, memorial museum lead project designer.
“As new generations come, they come with new questions,” Gallagher said. “They come with new inquiries about the story and a new sense of understanding. And what our team has been doing is working with Kari and the whole team here at the museum in carefully, carefully examining, ‘Are we making the right connections?' ‘Are we missing parts of the story that people have questions about and want more information on?'”
So, he said they have gone through the entire museum and looked at not only every chapter of the bombing story, but each element that can make this a complete experience for the visitor.
Gallagher said they want to use all resources available to tell the story in a way that wouldn't have been possible even 10 years ago.
“So after a full five-phase project of construction and re-installation,” he said, “we will have a new experience that will invite back visitors that have been here before to understand this story differently and to bring in new generations to come of visitors from this community, this state and nationally and internationally.”
Gallagher said Oklahoma has respectfully and carefully preserved this story that shows in part “the work of thousands and thousands of people in bringing this story full circle where justice was served.”
Watkins stressed that during the expansion, the museum will not be closed.
For instance, the Gallery of Honor will be moved overnight before the expanded gallery's location opens to the public, which is scheduled for April 1, Watkins said.
“Until it is completely done, visitors will not understand the full scope, but they will never miss a part of the story,” Watkins said.