Twenty-three years have gone by since a madman blew up a rented truck on the threshold of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and leaving a lot of us somewhere between baffled and bellicose. Purely by chance, I get to number myself among those who were close enough to downtown to have heard the explosion when it happened. First thought: a power transformer down the street had blown up. The problem with this hypothesis: the lights were still working. About half an hour elapsed before it occurred to me to turn on the radio, after which I muttered something about sanctified fecal matter.

Early on, I worried that the city fathers and other Chamber of Commerce types were going to turn the hole where the building used to be into the lowest form of tourist trap. I wrote in Vent #1 (yes, #1):

I'm definitely sure that I wish all of this would go away. And if McVeigh and Nichols are convicted of the bombing, it's only a matter of time before things get worse, as the local hack politicians go into their usual see-how-tough-we-are-on-crime act and the regulars from the Professional Victims League start angling for televised executions at the Lloyd Noble Center.

Much of it did go away. Timothy McVeigh, convicted of the bombing, got his ticket punched for a one-way trip to hell in 2001; conspirator Terry Nichols drew eight life terms from the Feds for killing Federal agents and 161 more from the state for killing everyone else. (These terms will be served consecutively, so to speak.) And the city fathers and other Chamber of Commerce types did themselves proud with the National Memorial where the building once stood. If you have eighteen minutes to spare, take a look around:

The National Memorial, inevitably, has its own app. I suppose there was no way around that in this day and age. But if you're blowing through town on the way to somewhere else, or if you're actually coming here for a vacation — people do that nowadays — do see the Memorial. It's a model for the way these things should be done, and a prayer that these things will never be done again.

The Vent

  19 April 2018

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