This article appears in Aug. 1 Travel page.
None of us participated in the Centennial Land Run of 1889, but many of us remember the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. In this capital city, visitors will find monuments to both important, historic events.
The bombing was, at one time, the deadliest terrorist attack in the U.S. The Oklahoma City National Memorial is dedicated to helping those visiting understand what happened that day in and around the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
OKC citizens came together that day to help — some donated the shoes off their feet, strangers became friends and cars became ambulances. It is now referred to as the “Oklahoma Standard” when people share their time, abilities and whatever they have to those in the community.
Today the memorial and museum is at the site of the building and offers visitors a chronological, self-guided tour. It addresses the event itself and the many days, months and years that followed. It is impactful and detailed so that visitors understand the terrible event that left 168 dead.
An app is available for use while visiting that has audio and video tours for the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial and the museum. It is available in Google Play and the Apple Store and is a wonderful tool for a visit.
Visitors enter the memorial through twin bronze gates marked with the last moment of peace — 9:01 a.m. — and the western gate is marked with 9:03 a.m., the time of recovery. The bombing took place at 9:02. Passing through the gate visitors will see in the reflecting pool an image of themselves, which is said to be seeing someone changed forever by what happened at the site.
To the right of the pool is the “field of empty chairs,” made from glass, stone and bronze. The 168 chairs represent the people who died that day. They are arranged in nine rows representing the nine floors of the building, with each person’s chair located on the floor where they worked or where they were on that April day.
National Park staff are often on site to help visitors and to describe the different sections of the memorial. The museum and memorial are in the area of 620 N. Harvey Ave. The memorial takes on an entirely different feeling when viewed at night.
Another important date for the Oklahoma area was also in April: April 22, 1889. The Centennial Land Run Monument commemorates the opening of the Unassigned Land Run in the Oklahoma Territory, a spectacular display of 47 statues covering a distance of 365 feet depicting what is Oklahoma’s most recognizable event from its early history. More than 50,000 people raced to stake a claim of the available free land in the territory. During the run, horses fell to the ground, wagons tumbled over, people were crushed and fights broke out.
Norman, Oklahoma, sculptor Paul Moore has truly captured the historic event in what is the largest series of sculptures in the world. All are cast in dark bronze and are one-and-a-half life size, which makes a person that is standing about 9 feet tall and a horse and rider more than 12 feet tall. There are 38 people, 34 horses, three wagons, a cannon, a dog and even a frightened jackrabbit. Moore’s grandfather was a part of the land run.
The entrance is at the south end of the Bricktown Canal, 200 Centennial Ave., just off Reno Avenue. Admission is free and the park is open 24 hours a day. It is best viewed during the daylight hours.
The sculpture is breathtaking and offers a peaceful walk to reflect on what these land seekers must have gone through in their quest for a home. There is plenty to see within just a few steps for those who cannot walk far, yet more can be seen with a bit of a walk: A canal on the property plays an important part in the sculpture.
Both visitor opportunities are favorites of OKC travelers. For more information on where to stay, eat and other things to do go to visitokc.com.