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Visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial with Young Children

Visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial with Young Children

I remember. I was 15 at the time, and homeschooled, so I watched days of coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. I was old enough to grasp the enormity of the event and the tragedy being felt by the families affected. All those memories started flowing back as we visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial this fall.

It was late afternoon during our visit. On a road trip through Oklahoma, I planned for this stop and wanted to bring the children.

You see, they don’t remember. It happened a full decade before they were born. At the time of the visit, they hadn’t known of a national tragedy. We don’t watch the news at home, and we let them be children. They know bad things happen, but this is the first time they’d be face to face with tragedy.

I spent time in the car prepping the children about the site, and how they needed to act respectful. It is always a little harder to explain using quiet voices when you are outside, especially after being in the car all day.

Steps at OKC Memorial

As we walked into the building footprint, we took a seat on the stairs to talk. I showed them the 9:01 on one side, and the 9:03 on the other and explained how the bombing happened at 9:02. We talked about the many empty chairs in front of us. My daughter asked me why some of them were smaller than the others, and it broke my heart to explain how there was a daycare at the building and those chairs were for the children than died in the bombing.

We walked to the courtyard in front of the museum. They wanted to look at the colorful tiles that American children made and sent. We talked about processing grief and tragedy, and Claire said she would have made a tile if she was a kid when it happened. I agreed and we talked about her big heart and about what empathy was.

Tiles at the OKC Memorial

I opted not to take the children into the museum there. It’s important. But for them, it wasn’t the right time. I’ll bring them back when they are a little older and can better understand.

Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum

Websites :
Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum
National Park Service – OKC National Memorial

Empty chairs at Oklahoma City Memorial