Day in History 19 April – Oklahoma City National Memorial – Lord Byron


On this day in 1995, Timothy McVeigh parked a rental truck filled with explosives in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  The resulting explosion killed 168 people and destroyed the entire north face of the building.  The Oklahoma City National Memorial is a memorial that honors the victims, survivors, rescuers, and all who were changed by the Oklahoma City bombing.  The memorial is located in downtown Oklahoma City on the former site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.  The Final Footprint – The 3.3 acre memorial can be visited 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and includes;

  • The Gates of Time: Monumental twin bronze gates frame the moment of destruction – 9:02 – and mark the formal entrances to the Outdoor Memorial. 9:01, found on the eastern gate, represents the last moments of peace, while its opposite on the western gate, 9:03, represents the first moments of recovery. Both time stamps are inscribed on the interior of the monument, facing each other and the Reflecting Pool.  The outside of each gate bears this inscription:  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.
  • Reflecting Pool: A thin layer of water flows over polished black granite to form the pool.
  • okcmemorial220px-Oklahoma_City_National_Memorial_viewed_from_the_south_showing_the_memorial_chairs,_Gate_of_Time,_Reflecting_Pool,_and_Survivor_TreeField of Empty Chairs: 168 empty chairs hand-crafted from glass, bronze, and stone represent those who lost their lives, with a name etched in the glass base of each.  The chairs represent the empty chairs at the dinner tables of the victims’ families.  Three unborn children died along with their mothers, and they are listed on their mothers’ chairs beneath their mothers’ names.
  • Survivors’ Wall: The only remaining original portions of the Murrah Building are the southeast corner, known as the Survivors’ Wall, and a portion of the south wall.  The Survivors’ Wall includes several panels of granite salvaged from the Murrah Building itself, inscribed with the names of more than 600 survivors from the building and the surrounding area, many of whom were injured in the blast.
  • okcmemorial220px-The_Survivor_Tree_at_the_Oklahoma_City_National_MemorialThe Survivor Tree: An American elm on the north side of the Memorial, this was the only shade tree in the parking lot across the street from the Murrah Building.  The force of the blast ripped most of the branches from the Survivor Tree.  Glass and debris were embedded in its trunk and fire from the cars parked beneath it blackened what was left.  Most thought the tree could not survive.  Almost a year after the bombing, family members, survivors and rescue workers gathered for a memorial ceremony by the tree noticed it was beginning to bloom again.  The inscription around the inside of the deck wall around the Survivor Tree reads:  The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us. Hundreds of seeds from the Survivor Tree are planted annually and the resulting saplings are distributed each year on the anniversary of the bombing.  Thousands of Survivor Trees are growing in public and private places all over the United States.
  • okcmemorial220px-The_Memorial_Fence_and_East_Gate_of_Time_at_the_Oklahoma_City_National_MemorialThe Memorial Fence: A 10-foot-tall chain link fence was installed around the area that is now the Reflecting Pool and the Field of Empty Chairs to protect the site from damage and visitors from injury.  The Fence stood for more than four years, becoming notable as the place where visitors left tributes.  Visitors may still leave small items along and in the Fence; the mementos are periodically collected, cataloged, and stored.
  • Rescuers’ Orchard: A grove of Oklahoma redbuds (Oklahoma’s state tree), Amur Maple, Chinese Pistache, and Bosque Elm trees are planted on the lawn around the Survivor Tree.
  • Children’s Area: More than 5,000 hand-painted tiles, from all over the United States and Canada, were made by children and sent to Oklahoma City after the bombing in 1995.  Most are stored in the Memorial’s Archives, and a sampling of tiles is on the wall in the Children’s Area.  Chalkboards provide a place where children can draw and share their feelings.  The Children’s Area is north of the 9:03 gate, on the west side of the Museum.
  • okcmemorial150px-Jesus_Wept_OKC_Memorial2And Jesus Wept: On a corner adjacent to the memorial is a sculpture of Jesus weeping, erected by St. Joseph’s Catholic Church. St. Joseph’s, one of the first brick-and-mortar churches built in the city, was almost destroyed by the blast. Not officially part of the memorial, the statue is regularly visited.
  • Journal Record Building: North of the memorial is the Journal Record Building, which formerly housed the offices of the The Journal Record. It now houses the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum, which features numerous exhibits and artifacts related to the Oklahoma City bombing.  Staff of the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, a non-partisan think tank created shortly after the bombing by family members and survivors, also work here to spread knowledge of terrorism and its prevention.
  • Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Plaza: Located just south of the Field of Empty Chairs, above the underground parking garage, is the raised Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Plaza.  An original part of the federal building, the plaza had a garden and seating areas, as well as a playground for the daycare center.  Visitors to the Memorial can walk across the plaza, where the original flagpole is used for the American flag.

Portrait by Richard Westall

On  this day in 1824, poet and eading figure in the Romantic movement, Lord Byron died at the age of 36 in MissolonghiAetolia-Acarnania,Ottoman Empire (Greece).  Born George Gordon Byron on 22 January 1788 in a house on 24 Holles Street in London.  In my opinion, Byron is one of the greatest British poets, and remains widely read and influential.  He travelled widely across Europe, especially in Italy where he lived for seven years.  Later in life, Byron joined the Greek War of Independence fighting the Ottoman Empire, for which many Greeks revere him as a national hero.  Often described as the most flamboyant and notorious of the major Romantics, Byron was both celebrated and castigated in life for his aristocratic excesses, including huge debts, numerous love affairs, rumours of a scandalous liaison with his half-sister, and self-imposed exile.  He also fathered the Countess Ada Lovelace, whose work on Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine is considered a founding document in the field of computer science.  Perhaps his best known works are the lengthy narrative poems Don Juan and Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage and the short lyric She Walks in Beauty

Lord Byron On His Deathbed by Joseph Denis Odevaere

The Final FootprintAlfred, Lord Tennyson would later recall the shocked reaction in Britain when word was received of Byron’s death.  The Greeks mourned Lord Byron deeply.  The national poet of Greece, Dionysios Solomos, wrote a poem about the unexpected loss, named To the Death of Lord Byron.  Βύρων (“Vyron”), the Greek form of “Byron”, continues in popularity as a masculine name in Greece, and a town near Athens is called Vyronas in his honour.  Byron’s body was embalmed, but the Greeks wanted some part of their hero to stay with them.  According to some sources, his heart remained at Missolonghi.  His other remains were sent to England (accompanied by his faithful manservant, “Tita”) for burial in Westminster Abbey, but the Abbey refused for reason of “questionable morality”.  Huge crowds viewed his body as he lay in state for two days in London.  He is buried at the Church of St. Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire. A marble slab given by the King of Greece is laid directly above Byron’s grave.  A duplicate of the slab was later placed in Westminster Abbey.  His daughter, Ada Lovelace, was later buried beside him.  Byron’s friends raised the sum of 1,000 pounds to commission a statue of the writer; Thorvaldsen offered to sculpt it for that amount.  However, for ten years after the statue was completed in 1834, most British institutions turned it down, and it remained in storage.  The statue was refused by the British Museum, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey and the National Gallery before Trinity College, Cambridge, finally placed the statue of Byron in its library.  In 1969, 145 years after Byron’s death, a memorial to him was finally placed in Westminster Abbey.  The memorial had been lobbied for since 1907: The New York Times wrote, “People are beginning to ask whether this ignoring of Byron is not a thing of which England should be ashamed … a bust or a tablet might be put in the Poets’ Corner and England be relieved of ingratitude toward one of her really great sons.”.  Robert Ripley had drawn a picture of Boatswain’s grave with the caption “Lord Byron’s dog has a magnificent tomb while Lord Byron himself has none”.  This came as a shock to the English, particularly schoolchildren, who, Ripley said, raised funds of their own accord to provide the poet with a suitable memorial.  Close to the centre of Athens, Greece, outside the National Garden, is a statue depicting Greece in the form of a woman crowning Byron.  The statue is by the French sculptors Henri-Michel Chapu and Alexandre Falguière.

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