Welcome! As you explore the Memorial grounds during your visit, you will encounter multiple symbolic elements, which tell the story of April 19, 1995. A map of the grounds and short descriptions of each symbolic element are found below. A site brochure is also available.
Photo Credit Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum
The Oklahoma City National Memorial honors the victims, survivors, rescuers, and those changed forever on April 19, 1995. A description of the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial is found below.
We come here to remember
those who were killed, those who survived
and those changed forever.
May all who leave here know the impact of violence.
May this memorial offer comfort, strength,
peace, hope and serenity.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum:
The Oklahoma City Memorial Museum is open 7 day a week. Hours are as follows: Monday through Saturday 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. and Sunday 12:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. Ticket sales end one hour prior to closing each day. Visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum's website for more information.
The Children's Area, nestled in the Rescuer's Orchard, is a reminder of the important role children, from all across the United States, played in the rescue effort. They sent to those so intimately involved gifts of hope and encouragement in the form of cards, letters, teddy bears, and tiles. Though, the gifts were a small gesture, the Children's Area now stands in remembrance of the power of their efforts. Today, a small wall covered with an assortment of tiles, designed by children from across the country, stands along the Children's Area. Chalkboards, laid out on the ground in the shape of oversized cards and letters, are there to encourage children of all ages to leave their own messages of hope and comfort.
The Rescuers' Orchard, surrounding the Survivor Tree, represents the over 12,000 rescue workers that participated in the rescue effort. The three different species of trees honor the men, women, and rescue dogs who gave selflessly in the aftermath of the bombing. Eastern redbuds, the smaller trees nearest to the Survivor Tree, represent the Oklahoma responders. For Oklahomans, the choice of the redbud was important because of its statues as the state tree. The other trees making up the orchard are Chinese pistache and Amur maples. Not native to Oklahoma, these tree represent the rescuers that came from other states across the nation to serve in a time of need. Together, the trees are fruit and flower bearing which represents the fruits of the rescuers' labor.
Originally used to limit access to the 20 block area affected by the blast, the Memorial Fence protected the community from a dangerous area. The fence became a spontaneous memorial. Individuals left items that helped them to begin their healing process or that might help others to begin their healing process. In the years since the bombing, over 60,000 items have been removed from the fence and placed in the archives of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. Items are still being left in honor and memory of this event as well as for subsequent tragic events. The Oklahoma City National Memorial has evolved as a place of healing and memory for more than just the Oklahoma City bombing.
Gates of Time
When entering the memorial grounds visitors pass through one of two immense gates. As visitors walk into these structures they walk under the following inscribed words, "We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity". The eastern 9:01 Gate represents the last minute of innocence and a perceived sense of security for Oklahoma City, the state of Oklahoma, and the United States. The western 9:03 Gate, the minute after the attack, is a tribute to the human spirit and our ability for resilience in the face of tragedy, adversity, and fear. These gates symbolically frame the memorial in the minute of 9:02. A minute of change, a minute of devastation, the minute of the explosion. After the bombing we were able to come together both as a community and as a country during the rescue, rebuilding, and healing process.
At the promontory of the memorial stands an immense roughly 100 year-old American elm. Today, known as the Survivor Tree, this elm is our most famous survivor. Across the street from the former Alfred P. Murrah Federal building, in 1995, the tree stood in a gravel parking lot. Standing between the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and the Journal Record Building there was nothing to shield the tree from the explosion. Severely damaged the tree was not expected to survive. However, the tree was not a complete loss and signs of life were soon discovered. Still standing in the same location, the tree became a symbol of the community's and the nation's resilience. Like the Survivor Tree, Oklahoma and the United States suffered greatly, yet rebounded.
Between the Gates of Time sits the Reflecting Pool. The pool reflects all that has changed as a result of the attack; symbolically it represents the limitless impact of the event. Our own reflection in the pool leads us to contemplate how different the world we live in today is from that of 1995. The pool sits where NW 5th Street once ran. McVeigh drove down NW 5th Street to access the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and parallel parked the Ryder truck containing the explosives on the north side of the building. In respect for those lives lost, NW 5th Street, between Robinson and Harvey, was closed forever.
The Field of Chairs
The Field of Empty chairs lies within the footprint of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. One hundred and sixty eight empty chairs, each etched with a name of a victim, stand as a reminder of the innocent lives that were lost. The emptiness of the chair expresses a sense of absence. The five western chairs, separated from the larger group, represent those not inside the building, but who lost their lives as a direct result. The other 163 chairs are arranged in a pattern of nine rows according to the floors of the building. Each persons chair is then listed in alphabetical order according to the agency in which they worked or were visiting. The glass base of each chair illuminates at night emphasizing the individual's name.The light delivers comfort from and eliminates the fear of the darkness. As a unit the empty chairs are arranged to represent the damage done to the building, with the highest concentration of chairs near the center of the footprint to symbolically fill in the damage done to the building by the bomb. And, as you look out over the field, you will notice two sizes of chairs. The large chairs represent the adults and the smaller chairs the nineteen children whose lives were taken. Again, reminding us all of the impact this bombing had on this community and this nation.
The Survivor Wall, found at the east end of the Field of Empty Chairs, holds the names of over 600 individuals who survived the attack. Survivors include those who were in a one block radius surrounding the building. Those names are inscribed on four granite panels. Originally located in the lobby of the building the panels hang on one of two original walls remaining from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
The Murrah Plaza, part of the formal entry into the federal building, provides visitors with a sense of the 1970's design and architecture of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The plaza is preserved in as close to the original state as possible. Seals for each of each federal agency housed inside of the Murrah building were added to the floor of the plaza. Three flagpoles mark where the elevator shaft was located. A second American flag flies on the original Alfred P. Murrah flagpole.
It is recommended that you allow at least 1 hour for the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial and approximately 2 hours for the Memorial Museum. Please remember that pets are not allowed on the Memorial Grounds or in the museum. Taking pictures is allowed on the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial and in the Memorial Museum. Please be aware of extreme weather conditions and prepare accordingly. Drinking adequate amounts of water in the summer and wearing layered clothing in the winter is recommended. For younger visitors, Junior Ranger and other programs are available. Ask for a National Park Service Ranger on-site to obtain details.