The Edmond Sun

November 13, 2012

OKC Memorial reaches fundraising milestone

Mark Schlachtenhaufen
The Edmond Sun

OKLAHOMA CITY — On April 18, 1995, Carrie Lenz had ultrasound photos taken and she and her husband Michael learned they were going to have a boy. They immediately named him Michael James Lenz III.

They didn’t know it at the time, but it would be the last time Carrie spoke to the people she loved most.

The next morning, April 19, 1995, Carrie left early for work to show the ultrasound photographs to her co-workers at the Drug Enforcement Administration office in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. At 9:03 a.m., Michael was no longer an expecting father or a husband.

At 9:02 a.m., when Timothy McVeigh detonated his homemade bomb in a moving van, 168 men, women and children — and three unborn children — were killed. The lives of their loved ones, a city, a state and a nation were forever changed.

Monday evening Doris Jones, Carrie’s mother, was among those present when Oklahoma City National Memorial officials announced the 9:03 Fund had received $7.5 million, half of its $15 million goal. About $5 million of that will fund changes in the Memorial Museum, said Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum Executive Director Kari Watkins. Several major donor gifts announced are helping make these changes possible to the museum and to grow the memorial’s endowment.

Following the announcement, museum designers Patrick Gallagher, Michal Carr and Hans Butzer walked members of the original Memorial Task Force and donors through changes coming to the museum during the next two years.

The changes were illustrated with models, designs and plans floor to floor of what is coming to the museum before the 20th anniversary of the bombing in 2015, Watkins said. Plans call for growing the interactive program, sustained exhibit development and expanded opportunities to teach the importance of understanding and overcoming the impact of violence and terrorism, especially to youth who were not alive in 1995.

New artifacts, including items connected to McVeigh, have already been added, Watkins said. Other structural interior changes will be coming, but the museum will remain open during the process.

Families of victims, survivors, rescue workers, those who helped build the memorial and museum and donors who have joined the Memorial Foundation as the guardians of the memorial went on the tour.

Afterward, Jones talked about hearing the bomb detonate — as did many Oklahomans — about the loss of her daughter and her future grandson and the uncertainties of that day. Where her daughter’s office had been was completely gone. On a Friday she was notified about her daughter.

“I was at home. I live in the country and I saw headlights coming,” she said. “I knew what it was.”

Shock, sorrow and grief ensued.

“There’s no closure. I’ve said it a million times — it’s kind of like there’s a chain and a link is missing,” she said.

It’s been almost 18 years since that day. Today, her grandson would be approaching 18 years old. Jones said she got involved with the memorial from the beginning.

“It’s very amazing,” she said of the changes, which include incorporating youth-friendly technology. Youth will be able to easily use it, she said. “I can’t wait to see it.”

Regarding her daughter and the other victims, Jones had one simple request: “I don’t want them to be forgotten. And that was my biggest fear at the time. She was a wonderful person and I don’t want her forgotten. This has certainly done that.”

The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum’s top two priorities are remembrance and education. The 30,000-square-foot interactive learning museum tells the story of April 19, 1995. It includes reasons why McVeigh detonated the truck bomb, the actions of the first responders, the criminal investigation and information about the victims.

Since opening, the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial has hosted more than 4.4 million visitors and the museum more than 1.6 million visitors. The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum does not receive any annual operating funds from the federal, state or local government. Museum admissions, store sales, the OKC Memorial Marathon, earnings from an endowment and private fundraising allow the site to be self-sustaining. | 341-2121 ext. 108