We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.
Like the response to the event it was meant to commemorate, the creation of the Oklahoma City National Memorial has been a cooperative effort involving many people and all levels of government.
From the first hours after the April 19, 1995, bombing, Oklahomans began to create small makeshift memorials around the perimeter of the bombsite – mounds of flowers, stuffed animals, personal notes, cards and prayers. Almost immediately after the bombing, a chain link fence was erected to protect the site of the bombing. The Fence became Oklahoma’s – and America’s – memorial. Each day, visitors would hang mementos on the Fence. Items including poems, key chains, brief scribbled messages of condolence and support, event convention badges, car tags and airline ticket stubs were left by visitors to Oklahoma City. The Fence has been preserved and a portion of it is a part of the permanent memorial to allow visitors the opportunity to continue to leave personal messages of hope, comfort and goodwill.
In the months after the bombing, it became apparent that there was overwhelming support for the creation of a major permanent memorial where the Murrah Building once stood. Then Mayor Ron Norick appointed a 350-member task force to explore ways to remember this tragic event and especially to honor the 168 Oklahomans who died. In March 1999, the task force issued its report.
In the Memorial Mission Statement, the Task Force called for the creation of a memorial to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever – in short, all who were touched directly or indirectly by the bombing. The Task Force also called for these major components:
- An Outdoor Symbolic Memorial on the Murrah Building site and along NW Fifth in front of the building footprint.
- The Memorial Museum, an interactive learning museum to tell the story of April 19, 1995, and how chaos turned to hope in the days following the terrorist attack.
In September 1996, the Task Force became the Oklahoma City National Memorial, a private 501(c)(3) dedicated to fulfilling that mission. From the very beginning, committees were drawn from the families who lost loved ones in the bombing, survivors, rescue workers and volunteers who participated in the rescue and recovery efforts and community volunteers. The first task after completing the Memorial Mission Statement was to solicit design concepts for the outdoor memorial.
After an international design competition was commenced, 624 entries from all 50 states and 23 countries were received. These designs were put on public display for several days. More than 10,000 people stood in line to see the designs. The field was narrowed to five designs and a final design was selected and announced in July 1997. The design was submitted by Butzer Design Partnership then of Berlin, Germany, and now of Oklahoma City. Designers Hans and Torrey Butzer with Sven Berg created the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial.
Shortly after the final design was selected, President William J. Clinton signed Public Law 105-58 on October 9, 1997. This law created the Oklahoma City National Memorial as an affiliate of the National Park System and designated the Oklahoma City National Memorial Trust to own and operate the Memorial. This law also authorized appropriations of $5 million to be used until expended on construction of the Memorial and Memorial Museum. The amount was matched by an equal appropriation by the State of Oklahoma. More than $17 million of private donations were also raised to construct the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial, the Memorial Museum and to secure an endowment for maintenance and operations.
The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial was dedicated on April 19, 2000, the fifth anniversary of the bombing. President William J. Clinton joined more than 20,000 people to dedicate the site. President and Mrs. George W. Bush dedicated the Memorial Museum on Presidents’ Day, February 19, 2001. While the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial is open to the public at no charge, an admission fee to the Memorial Museum provides necessary funding to operate the Memorial and Museum.
Organization and Operations
In January 2004, President George W. Bush signed into law a bill that amended the original legislation, dissolved the Oklahoma City National Memorial Trust and transferred the Memorial to the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation, the 501(c)(3) organization that originally created and organized, raised the money and built the Memorial and Museum. The National Park Service is authorized to provide interpretive services on the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial.
The Memorial staff operate out of the same restored building listed on the National Register of Historic Places the Memorial Museum is housed in. The building, adjacent to the Murrah site, also received severe bomb damage on April 19, 1995.
Both the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial and the Memorial Museum are maintained and operated by the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation.
The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial is a place of quiet reflection. It honors those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever on April 19, 1995. It encompasses the now-sacred soil where the Murrah Building once stood, as well as the surrounding area devastated by the attack.
The Memorial Museum is an interactive learning experience that occupies the west end of the former Journal Record Building. Built in 1923, this building withstood the April 19, 1995, bombing. As the second component mandated by the Memorial’s mission statement, the state-of-the-art Memorial Museum takes the visitor on a self-guided tour through the story of those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever by the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and the response in its aftermath. The Museum uses 35 interactives as well as hundreds of hours of video and artifacts to show visitors each personal detail.
As an affiliate of the National Park System, the Oklahoma City National Memorial is owned, operated and maintained by the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation, a private non-profit organization.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum does not receive any annual operating funds from the federal, state or local government. Museum admissions, store sales, the OKC Memorial Marathon, earnings from an endowment and private fundraising allow the Memorial and Museum to be self-sustaining.