A visit to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum

Marie Lowe By Marie Lowe, 26th Mar 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL http://nut.bz/21iro89g/
Posted in Wikinut>Travel>North America>United States>Oklahoma

Former Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper Charlie Hanger spoke about arresting Tim McVeigh at the memorial in 2006.

Some of the exhibits at the memorial

This years marks the 20th Anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing and many are expected to make the trip to Oklahoma to mark the anniversary with a visit to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.
It is a must for anyone who remembers or desires to learn about the tragic events of April 19, 1995.
Centered on ground zero, the memorial consists of the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial, the museum and the Memorial Institute for the prevention of Terrorism.
Visitors walk through The Gates of Time which represents the final moment of innocence and the moment of destruction. The east gate represents 9:01 a.m. on April 19 which marks the innocence, and the west gate represents the 9:03 a.m. the moment the bomb exploded.
There is also the Field of Empty of Chairs which consists of 168 chairs placed in rows of nine, representing the nine floors of the building. Each chair is assigned a name of a person killed in the bombing and their chair is placed in the row according to the floor of the Alfred P. Murrah Building on
which they were visiting or working.
The Survivor Tree, a 100 year-old American Elm, stands to the right of the chairs. The tree is referred to as a profound symbol of human resilience. Around the base of the tree a message to visitors reads "The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us."
Once inside, visitors will be exposed to many displays and galleries, all designed to honor, remember and educate. The first section offers a background on terrorism and how it has impacted America since 1985. A history of the Murrah Building is presented in the second section.
Another exhibit features a recording of the explosion taped at a meeting of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board. The meeting was called to order in the hearing room across the street from the Murrah Building. Shortly after the hearing begins, the bomb explodes and the tape catches the sounds of the explosion and confusion.
The Gallery of Honor features portraits of the victims. Their families have placed artifacts by each photo to help tell a story of their loved one. Other displays include a collection of caps from all the different entitles that came to help including fire departments.
There is also an annual marathon held to raise funds for the memorial. I completed the half-marathon in 2008 and 2010.

Charlie Hanger speaks at memorial

On Sept. 1, 2006, I visited the memorial and covered a presentation given by Noble County Sheriff and former Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper Charlie Hanger for The Ponca City News.
Hanger is the trooped who arrested bomber Timothy McVeigh.
Hanger told the crowd the day McVeigh was arrested started like many others and that he was visiting with fellow troopers at turnpike headquarters when the group learned of the explosion.
"The first thing that came to everybody's mind was that it was probably some kind of natural gas explosion," said Hanger. "The furthest thing from my mind was that it might be a bomb from one of our own." Many troopers including Hanger received orders to go to Oklahoma City.
Before Hanger arrived at the scene, his orders were cancelled resulting in him patrolling Interstate 35 near Perry. He then was dispatched to check on a report of a disabled vehicle north of the Perry Exit.
Hanger said he found two ladies in a broken-down van. While checking on them Tim McVeigh drives by.
"I didn't know who he was and didn't have any reason to suspect him of anything at that point," said Hanger.
Hanger said he called a wrecker for the women and then headed north on I-35 to the Billings Exit where he spotted an older yellow Mercury with a primer spot on one side.
"I'm in the left lane and he is in the right lane and I'm going much faster than he is,” said Hanger.
“I see he doesn't have a tag on the back of the car. So I slowed down, got back behind him and changed lanes, initiated my emergency lights and the stop."
Hanger said McVeigh responded to the lights and pulled over on the shoulder with half of his car in the grass.
Hanger got out of his unit and stood behind his open door and yelled for the driver to exit the car.
"After a few seconds his door opened and he sat on the side of his seat, looking to the west with his feet down on the shoulder, never looking at me," said Hanger.
The pair met behind the Mercury.
Hanger explained to McVeigh that he pulled him over because of the missing tag.
McVeigh claimed he had just purchased the car and that he hadn't had time to purchase the tag.
Hanger feared the car was stolen when McVeigh couldn’t produce a bill of sale.
"I asked for his driver's license and he took his right hand and went into his rear pocket. When he did that I could see a bulge under his left arm that appeared to me to be a weapon. I didn't say anything at that point. I took the license and put it in my gun belt and told him to slowly take both hands and unzip his jacket and pull it back for me. He was very calm and he took both hands, unzipped it and was just getting ready to pull it back when he said 'I have a weapon.' I stepped forward and I grabbed the bulge on the left side of that jacket at the same time telling him to turn around and get your hands up and I drew my weapon."
Hanger asked McVeigh to walk to the back of the car. McVeigh said the weapon was loaded.
"I said well so is mine," said Hanger.
Hanger said McVeigh's weapon was loaded and holstered facing upward.
"I describe that as a suicide holster," he said. "I think he thought I was going to accidentally discharge it and probably blow his arm off."
Hanger retrieved the weapon, placed McVeigh in his unit, and called headquarters.
While Hanger was looking for the serial number on the weapon and discussing it with the dispatcher McVeigh recited it. "At that time I found it," said Hanger. "Well he was one digit off. I told him he was close and that most people wouldn't know that and he said 'well I do."
Hanger read McVeigh his rights and McVeigh consented to a vehicle search. He told Hanger he was in the process of moving to Arkansas and was heading to Junction City, Kan., to retrieve some belongings.
Hanger found a piece of paper in the car stating it had battery problems and not to tow it.
"Apparently he had left that car in downtown Oklahoma City to act as a getaway car and didn't want it towed," said Hanger.
"Also found were excerpts from the Turner Diaries which were the blueprints for the bombing. The FBI found that several days later."

McVeigh Jailed

McVeigh chose to leave his car at the roadside and was transported to the Noble County jail in Perry.
As he was being booked, a female jailer asked for next of kin information and he refused to answer. "She asked him again and he didn't respond," said Hanger. "So I decided this is where he is going to start some problems so I said did you hear her."
After some discussion Terry Nichols was listed as the contact person for McVeigh in case of an emergency. Nichols was later arrested and charged in the bombing.
Hanger said McVeigh was arrested at 10:20 a.m. and the bombing occurred at 9:02 a.m."Members of the FBI and I went back and drove from the bomb site to the spot where McVeigh was stopped at the legal speed limit and the timing was right on," said Hanger. "He never sped at all."

Hanger cites divine intervention in arrest

Hanger believes divine intervention had a hand in making sure McVeigh stayed behind bars.
"He was arrested Wednesday and he should have gone to court the next morning," said Hanger. "This is where the divine intervention continues. The judge was tied up with a divorce case and couldn't set a bond or come down for a hearing until Friday. On Friday the judge's son misses the bus to go to a band concert in Stillwater so the judge is late for court again, thank goodness. When he was finally identified by the FBI as a suspect he was before the judge and probably 15-20 minutes away from being released."
McVeigh was transported to the Oklahoma County Jail. Hanger said that as a young trooper he was told that if "You take care of the small stuff the big things will come to you. That was prophetic," said Hanger.
People in attendance asked questions of Hanger including why McVeigh didn't draw his gun on that day. Hanger said he believed McVeigh was a coward."He ambushed those people in that building," said Hanger. "And he didn't want to put himself in my line of fire."
For information on the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum and their special programs log onto www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org or call (888) 542-HOPE.

Tags

Charlie Hanger, Oklahoma City, Timothy Mcveigh

Meet the author

author avatar Marie Lowe
I earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Central Oklahoma.
My motto- Life is like a marathon, the closer you get to the end, the more it hurts.

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Comments

author avatar DeAnna C. Utz
26th Mar 2015 (#)

The first (and last) time I visited this prestigious Memorial was back in 2004, both my parents were alive back then, and they took me and my husband out to see this. We were both very saddened the minute we entered thru the front gates And then my husband point to the empty "chairs" on the left as we entered in further Each "chair" was represented by a student, or child, that was killed in that attack. We all, my parents, me, and my husband, felt the sad day's events that happened on that fateful day..something compels you about that when you enter that memorial.. I think there are some very saddened souls still there.

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author avatar Carol
26th Mar 2015 (#)

Thank you for an interesting piece

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