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Oklahoma City bombing museum sees technology boost

Oklahoma City Memorial
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - A memorial and museum built to remember the worst act of domestic terrorism on American soil is in the midst of a $7 million upgrade so it can better portray how different the world was when Timothy McVeigh blew up the Oklahoma City federal building 19 years ago Saturday.

Too many patrons, especially younger ones, do not realize that the days of constant cellphone contact and instant news updates are more recent developments, and that the hours and days spent pulling mangled bodies from the crumbled Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building left the victims' families in agony.

"They ask questions like, 'Well, why couldn't you just call their cellphone?' because they're so used to that kind of mentality," said Susan Winchester, the chairwoman of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation, who lost her sister in the blast. "They don't have any concept of what it was like 19 years ago."

Where the Murrah building once stood, 168 empty chairs now sit on a slope above a reflecting pool. The static display is noted for its emotional pull, but officials say explaining the context requires more than photos, text and artifacts.

"Our job is to keep the story relevant and alive and to make sure people can connect to the story," said Kari Watkins, executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, which opened in 2000. "Learning styles have changed since 14 years ago, and how my kids learn is much different than how I was taught."

Upgrades set for completion by Thanksgiving include interactive displays, a viewing deck and new exhibits on the criminal trials.

"For the younger generation, it's becoming a more distant moment. They want to know how this loop is closed," said project architect Patrick Gallagher. "What I think we had the opportunity to do was to look at the story in a very careful and pragmatic way and there were a number of places where we thought it was time for the content to mature."

On April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh drove a truck filled with fertilizer and fuel oil to the front of the Murrah building and detonated the makeshift bomb, killing 168 people, including 19 children. He was executed for the crime, while co-conspirator Terry Nichols is serving life in prison.

The bombing occurred exactly two years after a federal raid on a religious compound in Waco, Texas, left 76 people dead at the end of 51-day standoff. McVeigh cited the Waco raid as one motivation.

Many museum visitors were children when McVeigh was executed in 2001.

"It wasn't in the contextual reality of their lives," Gallagher said. "There's all this new information from the investigations, so now we can really add in the story of justice being served."

Winchester, whose sister Peggy Clark died in the bombing, recalled picking up her three nieces from school the day of the blast and the family remaining hopeful that Clark was assisting rescuers at the scene.

"Initially we just assumed, because she was a doctor, with her medical training she was probably helping people," Winchester said. "(The girls and I) realized later in the afternoon that it was time for mom to show up and she wasn't there."

With the new interactive displays, visitors can search for victims by categories like hometown, age, what office people worked in and artifacts linked to each person. Winchester said she used her sister as an example to showcase the interactive last week and was surprised by what she found.

"I pulled up my sister just as an example and on there was this ladybug, and I thought how strange, they must have put this in the wrong place," Winchester said. "It turns out someone had left this thing on her chair on one of the anniversaries. ... It was such a nice surprise to me that others still care about her."

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magarch1 April 20 2014 at 5:30 PM

People forget that McVeigh, the child murderer and killer of innocent people was schooled by the Branch Dividians in Waco, Texas.... Even today (see retards below) as we saw last week, people think it's cute and a good idea to not recognize the Federal Government and try to provoke another Waco.

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royjoneswolf62 April 20 2014 at 3:56 PM

And just think, the right wing militia groups that love this bombing, have gotten stronger thanks to Faux News and right wing hate talk radio.

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thiem3105 April 20 2014 at 11:26 AM

The saddest thing about Tim McVeigh is that he had only one life to give for his country.

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Tammy April 20 2014 at 9:42 AM

I think of this tragedy every single year and will never forget. My daughter was born the night before on the 18th. I was in the hospital with a newborn and was torn between joy over my new baby and the horror of the awful images on the news coverage. Her birth and the death of all those people, including such innocent, precious children, will always coincide. I can't think of one without thinking of the other.

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1 reply
just me Tammy April 20 2014 at 10:33 AM

Your story is so much like mine. My daughter Elizabeth just turned 19 on fri and I remember waiting to be discharged from the hospital on the 19th and seeing this tragedy on the news . I was so conflicted there was the joy of having my beautiful daughter going home with me and then the terrible sadness for the loss of so many innocent lives. You are so correct we cannot think of one with out remembering the other . God Bless

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Bright Blessings April 20 2014 at 2:44 AM

Don't concern yourselves too much with a newer 'generation' setting it all aside. Each generation has their own life-changing tragedies to deal with. The ones yet to come?... Now there's something for them to dwell on if they must.

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1 reply
filliperogers Bright Blessings April 20 2014 at 10:18 AM

I guess its kinda a timeless concept............... death and tragedy.

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phpoling April 20 2014 at 1:36 AM

I was 15 and it was really sad day when it happened. I remembered the newspapers had a picture of firefigher holding a little girl who had her second birthday a day before and firefighter was holding her until she passed away from her injuires. It was saddest picture ever. I never forget that picture ever

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petpetdon April 19 2014 at 11:17 PM

co-conspirator Terry Nichols is serving life in prison

Why does he get to live his live out in prison? He is costing the taxpayers about 50 grand a year. He needs to be put down like the scum he is.

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searune April 19 2014 at 11:10 PM

Its funny how everybody wants to blame the government for everything. Get up and vote and we will see change. The majority of Americans are not voting and we get stuck with horrible people running our country. We need a common sense party, not republican or democrat, or other crackpot parties. It's not going to get any better until we the people do something to make it right. People will say what does this post have to do with the subject. It has a lot to do with it. If we had been on our toes and had decent people in office, things like domestic terrorism would be unlikely.

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2 replies
Bright Blessings searune April 20 2014 at 2:52 AM

Don't be so naive. There will never be a human that can solve these overwhelmingly human problems. Just get back into your seat. Your big chance to run for office and make all the changes that you (in your righteous sight) deem necessary to save us all, will come.

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filliperogers searune April 20 2014 at 10:28 AM

Except decent people don't really want to be in the same room as the crooks that have hijacked our democracy in D.C. Can you blame them????

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Sandra April 19 2014 at 6:09 PM

Yes, I remember. I remember that day very well.

My oldest daughter moved to Oklahoma the year right before this happened. The first time I went to visit her in Norman (a neighboring town), there were a few places I wanted to visit prior to leaving, and going to the site was one. I had not even reached the site, but in approaching the entrance, every hair stood up on my arms. I felt a tingling sensation start from my head that continued to my feet. It was almost as if their spirits were crying out. A building right next to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, windows were blown out, but the glass replaced gives the appearance as if the glass is still missing. The wall built out where the "children's daycare facility" would had been is decorated with little children hand prints. The empty chairs with lights illuminated upon them. Incredible memory of visiting a moment in American history of unfathomed violence against human kind. I'll never forget.

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sknkodiak April 19 2014 at 7:16 PM

Every year as this day approaches I hope that maybe, maybe this year I will get through it without tears. I try to concentrate on the fact that it is also the birthday of my youngest godchild, now a beautiful and intelligent young lady in college. Today, when I wrote my first order at work, and had to put down the date, I started crying. I'm sure a surprise to all the people here in my job in Texas. However, maybe not. I said, "Anniversery of OKC bombing" and everyone became solemn and nodded. No one asked me how I was connected or who I lost, they just understood.

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1 reply
cdd300wm sknkodiak April 19 2014 at 8:47 PM

I feel the same way about many things but the goverment just keeps taking more and more. OKC was the direct result of govement overreach in Waco and Ruby Ridge! 911 was a very similar thing so that the goverment can get more control just like the wars the bankers WANT the US to be in. Its all about the bottom dollar and thelives of the victims and solders are just a side note. Life has little meaning to RICH goverments that treat their citizens(surfs) like cattle to be shot and rounded up for destruction. One only needs to look at nevada and the Reid family last week to see what "THEY" want!

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2 replies
hanlon1212 cdd300wm April 19 2014 at 9:10 PM

Seceed .

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filliperogers cdd300wm April 20 2014 at 10:37 AM

Someone who knows a little history..... i wish i could fan and fave you!

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