This has to be said – if you want to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the best time to get the best experience is after the Sun sets.
For almost 1.25 years now I have lived directly across the street from the Oklahoma City National Memorial – the site of the Murrah Building bombing by now dead bad guy Timothy McVeigh. I have watched people go in and out of this site, at all times of day or night (I myself have been there at 3:45am and 1am, as I don’t sleep much), in all kinds of weather. The memorial is incredible pretty much any time I set my eyes on it.
During the day, the sun plays on the shapes and structures made by the memorial chairs, and the trees take care of giving the entire site a nice textured light to soften the reality of why the site is there. At night though, the Memorial grounds are transformed; there is no longer a need to see everything. The soft light and the directional path on which your eye is taken leads to the most pertinent areas of the memorial, from the field of empty chairs at night, each with an illuminated lower section, to the Survivor Tree, where you are given yet another view of the field of chairs. To me, I feel the most solemn when visiting the memorial at night. Obviously though, I’m a lighting designer, and I could find the emotion in a stray beam of light that came from some intergalactic star burp.
Just as a quick spatial guide, as you are at the memorial, if you enter and are standing looking with the chairs on the left or right, you are looking down Fifth Street. FIfth used to run continuously between Classen and I-235, but the Memorial now sits at the spot of the bombing. The chairs you will see are located where the building used to sit, and the chairs represent people killed in the explosion. To be quite honest, I don’t know if you’re supposed to go onto the grassy area where the chairs are, but I just had to be close enough to pay my respects to the victims. I also went at night though, I didn’t want to cause a bother.
Here are the chairs and the grounds from the building directly across the street from where the Murrah Building once stood:
You’ll notice in the image above that there are two arches that stop Fifth Street – one that says 9:01, and the other that says 9:03. These are the Gates of Time. At the eastern most side of the Memorial is 9:01 – the minute before the bombing, where life as we knew it was one way. The bombing occurred at 9:02am, which is represented by the large reflecting pool and I believe the Memorial itself. 9:03, at the western most end of the Memorial, is where we now know life to be – after the bombing, after the death, after the bomber’s death.
Here’s the same view from my apartment, but in the evening:
What a beautiful memorial – you must commend the designers of this memorial, Hans and Torrey Butzer and Sven Berg, for their wonderful use of the night and the light in their design.
Below is a Gallery View of the photos – if you click on any one thumbnail, it will open the series in Gallery format for your enjoyment! I have given each titles and some descriptions to give you bearing as you navigate through the set.
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