I didn't go into the museum, but instead stayed in the Outside Memorial. A Park Ranger gave me a brochure, detailing all the parts of the Memorial and what they stood for. This brochure states it so much better than I ever could, so I'm paraphrasing below:
"The Outdoor Memorial: this remarkable national monument occupies the now-sacred soil where 168 Americans were killed. It is a place of comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.
The Gates of Time: Framing the moment of destruction - 9:02 am - the 9:01 East Gate depicts the innocence before the attack. The 9:03 West Gate marks when healing began.
Reflecting Pool: What was once NW Fifth Street now cradles gently flowing waters that help soothe and inspire calm.
The Survivor Tree: Encircled by the Promontory Wall with a message of resolve, this near-century-old American Elm stands at the highest point of the Memorial as a symbol of strength and resilience.
Rescuer's Orchard: Like the people who rushed in to help, this army of trees stands guard over the Survivor Tree.
The Fence: Installed to enclose the crime scene, it quickly found a higher purpose. People express their sorrow by leaving tokens of love and hope.
Murrah Plaza Overlook: This surviving original area offers a breathtaking view of the Memorial and Museum grounds.
Survivor Wall: The Murrah Building's only remaining walls, with more than 600 names of those who survived the blast.
Field of Empty Chairs: Arranged in nine rows that reflect the floor where victims were working or visiting. 168 chairs are each etched with the name of a person killed. The 19 smaller chairs represent the children. The field matches the footprint of the Murrah Building."
I nearly didn't go today because the weather was so dismal. As I walked around the field, I realized that the weather was a perfect background for the purpose of my visit. Twenty-three years later, the horror of what happened here is still with me. It heralded a new era of terrorism attacks, both domestic and other. Today, it seems that attacks and mass shootings happen at such a high rate that we're no longer shocked by the violence. The Oklahoma City bombing reminds me of a more innocent time, when the horror of what happened still had the power to bring us to our knees and rally together to help.
I hope that someday we can move back towards that time, where this kind of horror brought out the best and not the worst in people. I can only hope.