Sunday, April 29, 2007

Oklahoma City Memorial Weekend

This weekend was the 7th Annual Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. Although I didn't participate in the marathon, the 1/2 marathon, or even run (I did try to jog to the bathroom once!) this weekend, I did enter the 5K fun run/walk.

The Gates of Time: Twin gates frame the moment of destruction (at 9:02) and mark the formal entrances to the Memorial. The East gate represents April 19, and the innocence of the city before the attack.

My friend Christina and I headed down to OK city on Friday afternoon after work. The drive down went well, and we were able to check into the motel without too many problems (there was a bit of road construction that we had to fight through.) After checking in, we headed to a local chinese buffet. It was wonderful, several rows of hot chinese foods, a cold buffet of veggies to have stir-fried (like Mongolian BBQ), and a sushi bar. I was in heaven! It was even more enjoyable when we got the check--it was less than $10.00 for each of us to eat, plus we could have had salmon, chicken, steak, lobster, etc...cooked to order and included in the price! What a find, and definitely a repeat for next year! By the time we were done, it was time to head to bed.

Sat. a.m. we woke up and ate breakfast at the hotel, and then headed into downtown OK City. We paid our $5.00 parking fee and walked down to the Cox center to pick up our t-shirt and entry packet. There is also a health expo going on that we walked through--I purchased some nice new inserts for my athletic shoes, and also got a free chair massage. When we had gotten our share of freebies we headed for the park that is nearby. Running concurrently with the Memorial celebration is also the Arts festival that is held in the botanical garden downtown. Throughout the park there are booths with fine art, culinary art (yummy!) and performing arts. For lunch I had a lamb gyro and pita chips with hummus. Christina chose the German meal--Knockwurst, Rotkraut, Saurkraut, fried potatoes, and a roll. We wandered around the art booths, and watched several musical acts before just strolling through the botanical garden, and then sitting beside a fountain for awhile.

One of many of the visual arts displays.

Included in the displays are artists actually in the middle of their art, talking through their craft and answering questions for people.

Coi pond in the Botanical gardens, and various views of the gardens. The greatest thing about the entire thing is that dogs/animals aren't allowed in the park--no worries of stumbling across anything when you want lay on the grass and enjoy your surroundings.

Christina had to finish a paper so we headed back to the motel. I took a nap while she did her homework. Mom and Dad joined us at about 5:30, and we headed to a nearby steak restaurant--Cimarron's. We all enjoyed a good, and very filling meal before heading back to the motel to sit outside and catch up on our reading, while enjoying the beautiful evening. We headed to bed early.

We woke up at 4:00 this morning in order to shower, grab some breakfast, and catch the shuttle bus downtown for the 6:30 start time. There was a bit of a break-down with the bus shuttles, but thankfully we all got where we needed to go. We headed for the starting line (and our place at the back of it!), catching the last part of the sunrise service.

At 6:30 the race started, but it was a good 10 min. before our end of the line had moved enough to cross the starting line. For anyone who hasn't experienced this weekend memorial, you need to! It is the very definition of the expression "a sea of humanity". It is amazing to see the people all stretched out, never seeming to end. I kept trying to get a picture of it, but I'm not tall enough to capture the sheer enormity of it all.

Mom, Dad, Christina and I all walked in a group, weaving in and out of the people around us that were going slower. This weekend draws people from all over the world. At one point this morning, Mom was trying to get around a group of (loud) New York men, who wanted to know why she wasn't using her turn signals! Thankfully, everyone is united in the reason we are there walking/jogging/running, and it is like walking with a group of friends--eager to talk, and hear your stories, as well as share their own. Dad got split up from us for awhile, so I wasn't able to see him with his "crush and throw" motion at the first water stop...I guess he'll just have to go next year so that I can see it! :) When we crossed the finish line for our 5K the 1st guy was finishing his 1/2 marathon! It was amazing! It was still too early for us to head back to the hotel, so we walked over to the memorial and walked around. I'll include some pictures (items in green are taken from the memorial brochure) and my thoughts will be in blue.

The Survivor Tree: 90 year-old American Elm stands as a profound symbol of human resilience. The message on the stone surrounding the elm reads: The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.

Field of Empty Chairs: 168 chairs stand as a reminder of each life lost, symbolizing the absence felt by family members and friends. The chairs are placed in 9 rows, representing the nine floors of the building. The chairs are placed according to the floor on which those killed worked or were visiting. The chairs are designed in two sizes, the smaller size representing the absence of 19 children. The field's perimeter matches the footprint of the former Murrah Building.

Reflecting Pool: The pool occupies what was once N.W. Fifth street. Here, a shallow depth of gently flowing water is intended to help soothe wounds, with calming sounds providing a peaceful setting for quiet thoughts. The West Gate represents 9:03, the moment we were changed forever, and the hope that came from the horror in the moments and days following the bombing.

Children's Area: In the aftermath of the blast, countless expressions of encouragement were received from children. A wall of hand-panted tiles sent to OK City in 1995 by children illustrates that caring.

The Fence: The first fence was installed to protect the site of the Murrah Building. Almost immediately, people began to leave tokens of love and hope on the fence. Those items now total more than 60,000 and are collected and preserved in the archives.

"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."

This was left by one of the rescue workers the day after the blast.

Along with a marathon, 1/2 marathon, wheelchair marathon and 5K, there is also a Kids marathon. It was really neat to see them racing the last leg of their race!

This is the reason why we do it, and why I will continue to go back and participate. It is hard to keep the tears back when you see person after person that was affected that day.

Mom and Dad--it was pretty bright at the memorial, so the pic didn't turn out as well. We're pretty proud of Mom and her first athletic medal! :)

Christina and me on the way back to the hotel after the race. Tired and sweaty--ready for a shower and the drive home!

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