Twenty-eight GEAR UP students from Stringtown recently traveled to Oklahoma City to tour the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. The Museum was created to honor “those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever” by the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Students began the day in the Memorial Museum with an interactive learning experience, a chronological self-guided tour through the story of April 19,1995. Their first stop on the journey was a short introductory video, “A Day Like Any Other” which explained how the community had begun that fateful day in a routine manner when suddenly, at 9:02 a.m., their day was drastically changed.
The tour continued with a timeline of the events including an interactive hearing with actual audio recording from the Water Resource Board meeting which was interrupted by the explosion. Following the mock meeting, the students experienced the chaos of the bombing by exploring detailed artifact cases containing items from the explosion and personal belongings of the victims. They viewed actual footage of the day and videos of survivors relating their personal stories of the day.
Next, students traced the investigation of conspirators and examined key pieces of evidence used in the case, such as the getaway car and crime scene photos. Matt Sandmann, Stringtown history educator, led the students through the justice process and relayed personal stories from the trial of Terry Nichols held in McAlester.
The tour concluded with a brief visit to the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial. After pausing for a moment of reflection at the Survivor Tree which withstood the force of the attack, students walked along the Reflecting Pool which is symbolic of the minute that forever changed the country. Before leaving the Memorial, Sandmann discussed the Oklahoma Standard, a spirit of generosity including service, honor, and kindness.
“Watching the students’ reactions to the tragedy was moving,” said GEAR UP Education Coordinator Denise Lovell. “What they learned today was more than a history lesson; they learned about humanity and courage.”
The field trip was sponsored by Eastern Oklahoma State College’s GEAR UP program. Participating schools take two field trips each academic year—one to tour a college or university and one that is cultural/educational in nature. In 2017, Eastern recently received a $17 million federal GEAR UP grant and serves over 3,000 students in 39 area schools.