The first, most immediately recognizable moment for me was the heightened level of security at the federal building in Fayetteville. As part of my law clerk responsibilities, I often had to take documents to the federal building. The afternoon of April 19th, you could not get within 2 blocks of the federal building in Fayetteville. Secondly, a guy I knew from my hometown was in the Murrah building at the time and was killed in the explosion.
This second reason is what made me get out of bed this past Sunday morning and drive to downtown Oklahoma City to visit the memorial. We were in OKC for a dance competition in which my daughter and her dance company competed. Those of you who have kids who are doing or have done this understand that 1) the venues are conveniently located near NOTHING; and 2) the event timings leave little room for free time. I knew we would probably not be loading up to drive downtown to visit the memorial and museum, and to spend a significant amount of time there. But I was not going to leave town without paying a visit to this piece of hallowed ground and visit The Field of Empty Chairs.
I got there about 7:30--about an hour later than planned. But, I still had the place to myself. Wearing dark glasses and a black skull cap, carrying a large camera bag and a tripod, it did not take long for a security guard to appear and make sure I was on the up-and-up. We chatted. He told me it was ok to walk among the chairs. He showed me where the names of the bombing victims were engraved on the chairs. He showed me the chair of Baylee Almon, the infant in the famous firefighter photograph (I'm not going to give it to you--go look for it). I didn't have nearly enough time to do much of anything other than take in the site and take a few photographs.
The children's chairs are smaller than those of the adults. If you have children, you instinctively get how poignant this is.
I can't wait to go back. Early on a Sunday morning. With the place to myself and my family.