Sixteen Tannehill sixth and seventh grade GEAR UP students recently visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum. The museum and memorial was established to remember and honor those who were killed, those who survived, and those who were affected by the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995. In months after the bombing, it became apparent that there was an overwhelming support for the creation of a permanent memorial and museum.
The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was home to 17 federal agencies, including the Department of Agriculture, Social Security Administration, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. It also housed the America’s Kids Day Care. More than 450 people worked in the building, and numerous civilians visited the building daily.
Students began the day on a self-guided tour through the museum, which offers an interactive learning experience. The museum is divided into different sections, describing the timeline of events. Students learned about the events leading up to, during, the weeks after, and the years after the bombing.
“Although these students were not born yet, it is important for them to learn about a huge piece of Oklahoma history,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Brianna Brassfield. “The museum and memorial shows that although it was a time of tragedy and terror, it also was a time of humanity and courage.”
Students watched an introductory video about the museum, and then listened to a recording of a group water permit requisition hearing minutes before the bombing. That recording captured the first sounds of the bombing.
The next section of the museum offered viewing of live news coverage as well as debris found at the scene. It also showed a video of survivors who shared their recollections of the events. Immediate and continued rescue efforts were made. Rescue crews from all across the nation helped during the time. Two weeks after the bombing, search and rescue shifted to search and recovery.
“I was very impressed that not only Oklahoma City residents came together but people from around the world came to help during the tragic time,” said Tannehill Schools Reading Specialist Aid and Tannehill GEAR UP Tutor Coordinator Cindy Péna.
During the next section of the museum tour, students learned about the bombing investigation and suspects Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols.
At the end of the tour, students visited a gallery of honor that remembers each person killed during the bombing. The Oklahoma City bombing killed 168 people and orphaned 30 children. The gallery holds artifacts in each case—chosen by the victims’ families—that provides a sense of the uniqueness and life of their loved ones.
After the museum tour, students were led through the outdoor memorial by National Park System Ranger Amanda Cooper. The first stop during the memorial tour was to a preserved portion of the chain link fence that was put up almost immediately after the bombing to protect the site. For more than 20 years since the bombing, visitors have hung mementos on the fence to honor and remember those affected by the bombing.
The memorial is on the grounds where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building stood. Chairs are placed in the same spot where the victims died. Different size chairs represent the children and adults killed during the bombing.
The last stop of the outdoor memorial tour was the Survivor Tree. More than 100 years old, the tree has lived through the Dust Bowl, the Great Depression, disease, fires, and the bombing, which left glass and other debris stuck in its bark.
After touring the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum, students enjoyed the lunch buffet at Mazzio’s. During lunch, students shared their favorite experiences at the museum as well as things they learned throughout the day.
“The Survivor Tree was neat,” said Tannehill sixth grade student Emma Roberts. “It lived through so many different events that have happened, and it still stands strong today, kind of like Oklahomans have since the bombing.”
The field trip was sponsored by Eastern Oklahoma State College GEAR UP. Participating schools take two field trips each academic year—one to tour a college or university and one that is cultural/educational in nature. Eastern recently received a $17 million federal GEAR UP grant and will serve over 3,000 students in 39 area schools for seven years.