Location: Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building
Oklahoma City, OK
I knew Michael George Thompson. Now his name is on one of 168 empty chairs that face a reflecting pool, a reflecting pool that once was a city road where a Ryder truck filled with explosives parked briefly on a lovely spring morning 14 years ago. The pool is flanked by The Gates of Time, two imposing stone monuments, one imprinted with "9:01" and one with "9:03." The Gates mark the last minute of our innocence, and the first minute of a nation forever changed. The pool between them marks the moment home-grown terrorist Timothy McVeigh detonated 4,800 pounds of explosives that he had concealed in the truck - April 19, 1995 at 9:02 a.m.
I met Michael when he reported for a short-term detail in Social Security's Headquarters in Baltimore. When his detail ended, he returned to his permanent duty station in Oklahoma City. While in Baltimore, he was so quiet and studious that people an aisle or two away could not recall his face when we found out he had been working at his desk in the Social Security office in the Murrah Building that morning and perished along with so many others.
The Field of Empty Chairs occupies the space where the Alfred P. Murrah building stood, each chair silently looking out over the reflecting pond. They are etched with the name of a person who died in the blast, and are placed in the row - 1 through 9 - that corresponds to the floor where that victim was when the bomb exploded. A 10th row contains 5 chairs representing those who died outside the building. Gaps can be seen in the pattern of the chairs where the blast's indiscriminate randomness claimed fewer lives.
The chairs representing the day-car children who were killed are smaller and indescribably heartbreaking.
The memorial is a significant, poignant, and powerful remembrance of the victims of home-grown terrorism. May we never need to have another.