Once upon a time there was a coffee shop in Emporia, Kansas…
Well of course there was a coffee shop. Whose blog is this anyway?
Granada Coffee Company was my mid-morning stop today to recharge and sample the local beans and muffins. A blueberry one and a big Americano with plenty to take on the road was perfect. The shop was little but homey and comfortable, with just five or six tables. The lady barista was very friendly to me from the start (are you sensing the pattern here, that people who are around coffee, who drink coffee and who brew coffee are all very nice people?), and I was very impressed with the fact that she called every one of her customers while I was there by name as they walked in the door. The sign on her wall said, “Enter as strangers; leave as friends.” I believe that this fit just right.
Then, it was on to see the Flint stones. No, not the yabba dabba doo kind, but the rolling hill kind that were a nice shade of yellow-brown-gold and undulated nicely through the rest of Kansas before I hit Oklahoma. The Flint Hills were a very pretty part of the state to drive through indeed.
The highlight of my day, and the only real destination I had set myself today, was the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. How can I describe this place to those of you have never been there? I expected that it would be a very visceral experience for me. I am getting a little road weary now that I am in my third week away from home, and I tend to get a little more emotional when I’m tired, so I knew that this would be a very interesting and educational, but emotionally painful, stop. It is telling that one of my close friends texted me just before I got there and checked in with me, offering to touch base later in the day to make sure I was okay.
Walking up to one of the massive gates, situated at each end of the site like gigantic bookends of time, plus seeing the sections of fencing that have been left to accept tokens and memorabilia from visitors, immediately hit me in the gut. That and the fact that Jesus, in the form of a large white statue across the road, had turned his back on the horrific trauma, covered his face, and wept. I saw the tiny tennis shoe hanging from the fence, the pictures of the victims and the still-fresh grief of the families that said goodbye, probably for the hundredth time, to their daughter or father or husband, and I had trouble seeing to use my camera to capture the pain.
I spent a total of about four hours at the site, three in the bright sunlight of the outdoor venue and inside touring the museum, and another hour as the sun set. I wanted to get another set of pictures as the wonderful lighting slowly changed the feeling of the Memorial from a sun-splashed beauty to a melancholy glow. I was very glad I took the extra time to go back.
The Memorial is one of the best I’ve ever visited, and I highly recommend you see it if you ever go to Oklahoma City. The museum educates as it should, with words and pictures and sounds and emotion and shock and closure. The outdoor area is nothing short of spectacular in its ability to recreate the space as it was in the moment before the blast, but to also bring us forward in time long past 9:03 AM on that fateful day of April 19, 1995. The horror of the loss is apparent in the Field of Empty Chairs, but the hope and serenity that comes up from the perfectly clear and calm pool of water between the bookended gates of time is calming. Above it all, the Survivor Tree lets us know that when all hope seems gone, life can go on.
I don’t have any other words that do this place justice, but I tried to capture some of the emotion behind the lens of a camera to share with you. I hope I have done a good enough job.
The overarching themes of this Memorial are that out of horrendous destruction springs monumental beauty, from hate can come love, and from darkness can come soothing light.
If you love someone, tell them.
If you feel strongly about something, act.
None of us are guaranteed tomorrow.
Good night, dear readers, from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.