Just as we drove out of Texas and into Oklahoma, a few raindrops became a torrential downpour, and Betsy was one of the many unhappy vehicles on I-40. The rain became so fierce that several cars hydroplaned off the road in front of us, so at that point we decided to pull into a city park to take a break. Nasty!
The following morning brought some sunshine and we continued on to Oklahoma City, or OKC as it is affectionately called here.
This city hasn’t been on our travel route in past years, but thanks to Steve’s desire to visit the southeast one more time we were able to take a route to include it and several other stops that are firsts for us.
Did you know that Oklahoma City was settled by the historic Land Run of April 22, 1889? Well, we didn’t until we stumbled upon the Centennial Land Run Monument while walking along the south end of the city’s Bricktown Canal. A series of 45 bronze sculptures commemorate the opening of Unassigned Lands in Oklahoma Territory, and feature larger-than-life figures depicting the frenzied energy and emotion from one moment during the race to claim new homesteads.
During that chaotic event in 1889, 50,000 anxious settlers massed along the border surged forward at the sound of a cannon shot at noon. A tumultuous avalanche of wagons and horsemen rushed onto the Unassigned Lands to stake their claim for free land.
After our interesting history lesson, we continued meandering along the canal and entertainment district, having lunch at The Drake in the Uptown Plaza District. We enjoyed their famous Lemon Cloud Pie free of charge, just because we were out-of-towners. Such warm hospitality! Our friendly server then suggested we take a peek at the art on the area’s plaza walls, a rotating public project that provides mural space for local artists. We walked off the calories from that excellent pie as we viewed some impressive modern street art.
Driving around OKC, we saw these squiggly lines painted on the road. Can you guess what they’re for? We were so curious that we had to ask one of the locals!
Here’s some more trivia: Did you know that the Oklahoma state capitol is the only capitol building that sits atop a giant oil field? Active oil rigs can be seen all around the capitol grounds. We also learned that the building was dome-less for 85 years after its initial construction.
Part of the original blueprint over 100 years ago included a dome, but it was only completed in 2002. Our tour was somewhat limited due to a major restoration that has been underway since 2015.
Oklahomans are memorialized through many beautiful murals, paintings, and other artwork (some had been removed for the restoration) at the capitol.
On a rare sunny day we visited the two components of The Oklahoma City National Memorial – the indoor Memorial Museum and the Outdoor Memorial. Viewing the Outdoor Memorial first, we witnessed the symbolic elements that tell the story of that moment on April 19, 1995. We’ve seen pictures of the memorial taken by our blogger friends, but being there in person was a powerful experience.
A “Gate of Time” is erected at each end of what was once the street in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. One is engraved “9:01” and the other “9:03”, and they frame the moment the bomb detonated at 9:02am. The 9:01 east gate depicts the innocence before the attack, while the 9:03 west gate marks when the healing began.
The Field of Empty Chairs faces the reflecting pool. There are 168 bronze chairs, each etched with the name of a person – including 19 children – who died on that day. They were arranged in nine rows that indicate the floor where victims were working or visiting at the time. The memorial also pays tribute to those who survived the blast and the 12,000 rescue workers who came to help from all over the world.
It was a sobering experience inside the Memorial Museum. The self-guided tour is organized by chapter, starting with the history of the site, its neighborhood and the Murrah building. Displays show what was happening in the city and around the world in 1995.
The tour continued with us listening to a recording of a meeting underway when the blast occurred, including the chaos of people trying to escape the building. From there we continued through chapters detailing the rescue efforts and recovery of the city during the days and years after the event.
Artifacts at the museum
We thought the museum was extremely well done. It’s a factual tribute that doesn’t diminish the tragedy, but offers an inspiring contrast between the brutality of the evil and the tenderness of the response.
For us, the Outdoor Memorial was a beautiful and symbolic place of quiet reflection that became more meaningful after experiencing the story inside the museum. It was a very emotional yet uplifting day.
Next up: A little rock and a hot spring