WSJ: The facts of Oklahoma City, as depicted in museum

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

by Mark Yost

The Wall Street Journal

Ever since Sept. 11, 2001, New York's World Trade Center has been ground zero for terror-attack remembrances in the U.S. (with the Pentagon and Shanksville, Pa., a distant second and third). That's understandable. But one of the unintended consequences of the 9/11 focus has been the marginalization of the site of America's other major terrorist attack: Oklahoma City in 1995.

That may be about to change. The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum has reopened after an extensive $8 million refurbishing and expansion that includes 19 new interactive stations and 1,100 additional artifacts, including never-before-seen forensic evidence released by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Nine of the 12 galleries are now open, with the other three slated to open by December, just ahead of the 20th anniversary of the attack.

You may recall that on April 19, 1995, two antigovernment extremists, Timothy McVeigh and accomplice, Terry Nichols, successfully detonated a 4,000-pound fertilizer bomb hidden in a Ryder rental truck parked outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The museum and memorial are now on that site.

Museums often begin their exhibitions by providing historical background, but this one is unflinching in taking visitors immediately back to the scene of the crime. The primary image in the first gallery is an 8-by-8-foot grainy photograph of the yellow rental truck that contained the bomb. The time stamp in the lower-right corner reads "04-19-95, 08:56:56," about five minutes before the crude explosive detonated, killing 168 people, including 19 children. The photograph, taken by a security camera at the Regency Tower, is mounted next to a window that looks out on the apartment building, still there, connecting today's visitors to that fateful day.


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