Thursday, July 9, 2009

Oklahoma City

Yesterday I had quite a special opportunity. I was allowed to accompany our Park Superintendent, Bruce Noble, to his weekly meeting in Oklahoma City, across from the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. Again, I really, really appreciate all the efforts Lauren has taken to show me the various aspects of the National Park Service.

I met Bruce at our Administrative Office, where we hopped in a government car. Neither Bruce nor I were in our NPS grays and greens. I was specifically asked not to dress in uniform, sensibly, so that when I was at the Memorial I would not be interacting with the public as a ranger. I must say, it felt odd to get dressed in civilian clothes on a work day.

We hopped on I-35 and drove north, stopping in Norman, OK to meet with Congressman Thomas Cole's staffer about issues pertaining to the park. After 45 minutes we were back on the road and before long we were parking in the parking garage.

The NPS office at Oklahoma City is kiddy-corner from the Memorial and the third floor office overlooks the memorial itself. I was given a special badge, exempting me from the metal detectors and granting me access to come and go as I please. Very official. Very cool.

From the NPS Oklahoma City Memorial website: "The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, killed 168 people, including 19 children, and injured more than 650. The memorial is a public/private partnership erected so that the American public can honor the memory of the victims, their families, the survivors, and their rescuers."

Skip, at the OKC NPS office, arranged for me to visit the Memorial's museum while Bruce had meetings. I am appreciative of this. Mark and came through the memorial in 2006 on our Santa Fe Trail trip, but because we had Soba, and due to time restrictions, we didn't go through.

I spent two and a half hours in the museum. It was well done. One of the resounding messages was that these were ordinary people who went to work, had meetings, plans for the coming weekend, families, and could not have expected what would happen that day. The museum told the victims' stories, the stories of the survivors, the stories of the families involved, the rescuers, and the country.

I thought it was interesting that the story, and a lot of its terrorism statistics, pre-date the 9/11 attacks. Looking back, it's hard to not put the OKC bombing in context of our most recent terrorist attacks and what has happened since the OKC bombing.

I came out of the museum a lot more somber than I went in. I walked outside to take some pictures and then to head to the Tree of Life, where a 2:00 pm ranger talk would be given.

The Tree of Life is more than 100 years old and survived the OKC bombing. City officials thought the tree would have to come down due to what it endured, but to everyone's surprise it slowly started to come back to life. Today, it represents the life that has continued and the strength citizens of this country, the city, and the bombing have survived.

After the ranger talk ended, I decided to find lunch. I looked across the street and saw Markie's deli so I skittered across the street and pulled the door open. Only, it didn't open. It was locked. Two men standing outside asked if they could help me and I told them I was looking for something to eat. They asked me what, and I said, I was pretty indifferent, just hungry. They asked if it was just me or anyone else in addition and I told them it was just me. It turns out they're the owners or managers of the deli and they invited me. They made me a delicious veggie and cheese wrap for me....I just thought it was so nice of them. If you're ever in OKC, be sure to stop by this deli--what incredible hospitality!

With my stomach full, I headed back to NPS headquarters to meet up with Bruce. Bruce had a little more business to conduct so I talked with Tim about the books on their shelves, the paintings on the wall, and various other things.

Bruce and I hopped back in the expedition and were back on the road, headed to Sulphur. The trip back was fast and filled with conversation about the parks.

Soon after arriving back, Lauren called to say she and Chris were on their way back from Norman and would be by to pick me up for a BBQ at Ryan's house. The BBQ (with yummy potato salad and baked beans that were meat free!) included camp hosts, some of the LE (law enforcement), their families, Ryan and his wife and children, and Chris, Lauren, and me. It was a beautiful little cook out. And I was able to get a little of my puppy fix with Ryan's dog Lucy (very coincidental I thought since Lucy is the name of my rental car).