Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial (part 2)

In my last post, I went over  the outdoor memorial for the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial. And I want to apologize for having the wrong year, 1985, instead of 1995.  The post has been edited, but if you receive the blog via e-mail, it had the wrong date.

Today will cover the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum.  The museum is one of the best museums I have ever visited.  It takes you through the day of the bombing, the days and weeks that followed, and has many first hand stories from the survivors and first responders.  It chronicles the investigation and trials of the domestic terrorists, and has a moving memorial to the victims at the end of the museum.

When you walk into the first of two floors in the museum, you are greeted with a large mural of downtown Oklahoma City with the words, “A day like any other” on the wall.  You will learn about the history of the Alfred P Murrah Federal Building, along with what the times were like in 1995.  There is a “technology display,” which contains these “state of the art” cell phones and pagers! (and remember the cell phone plugged in to the cigarette lighter…now called a 12 volt charger!).  Just 14% of the population was connected to the internet in 1995.

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Also on display is an old closed circuit television camera, and video taken from a nearby office building of a Ryder rental truck driving down the street in Oklahoma City, heading to the Federal Building.

You enter into ‘the hearing room’ and sit down to listen to an audio recording from the Oklahoma Water Resources Board Meeting that was going on in a nearby building.  Just a few minutes into the hearing, at 9:02 am, the tape recorder picks up the sound of an explosion.  I was struck by how loud the explosion was.  It is the only documented recording of the blast.  The doors from the hearing room open, and you walk into a room containing many artifacts from the bombing.

This clock, from a nearby office building, stopped at 9:02 am.  The lower left has a date book from one of the victims in the Murrah building, and the lower right portion of the photo is an electric pencil sharpener.

P1010824The next photo below has a piece of an elevator panel, car door frame, light fixtures and plaster found in the rubble.

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A few pieces of the bronze letters to the federal building were found amongst the rubble.  They were pitted and scarred from the blast.

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A Florida license plate was also found in the rubble, which provided investigators clues to the bombing.  The plate belonged to a Ryder rental truck.

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At 10:28 am, first responders were ordered to evacuate the building, as a box labeled “explosives” was found in the building.  The box was removed by the bomb squad, and rescue efforts resumed.  This was the item in that box, called a TOW missile (tube-launched, optically-tracked, wireless-guided) missile, used by the US Customs office, which was located in the building.

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One of the many stories told in the museum, is that of Daina Bradley.  She was at the Federal Building, along with her two children, her mother and her sister.  They had gone to the Social Security Office to obtain a social security card  for her new son.  Rescuers found her trapped under a concrete beam, and they started to dig her out from under the rubble.  But then they had to abandon her, when they were ordered to evacuate the building as a result of the bomb scare at 10:28am.  Once the ‘all clear’ was received, rescuers went back to her and spent two hours trying to dig her out, but were unable to do so.  Her lower leg remained trapped, and the only way to rescue her was to amputate her leg.  An orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Andy Sullivan, attempted to amputate her leg with a scalpel, but had to abandon her after another bomb scare, at 1:48 pm, forced all the rescuers to again evacuate the building.  After the ‘all clear,’ he again returns to her, and using a nylon rope as a tourniquet, is able to complete the amputation using his pocket knife.  This was done without anesthesia. Ms. Bradley survived the bombing, but her mother and both of her children did not.  Her sister was severely injured.  Below are the items donated to the museum by Dr. Sullivan.  This is just one of the many gut-wrenching stories told in the museum.

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One of the heart-warming things I took away was how quickly, and compassionately the citizens of Oklahoma City responded to this bombing.  There are photographs of nurses running down the street towards the site of the bombing carrying hospital supplies and blankets to help the victims.  A triage was set up outside the building.

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There was a food and restaurant convention going on in downtown Oklahoma City, and those members quickly used the equipment that they brought to display at their sales booths, to set up an impromptu ‘restaurant’ to feed all the first responders.  Fire Departments from all over the country sent personnel to help with the rescue efforts.  Sadly, one of the members from the New York Fire Department that helped in the rescue efforts in Oklahoma City, was killed in the 9/11 bombing in 2001.

A piece of the original chain link fenced is on display at the museum, with a small portion of the items sent to Oklahoma City from all over the world.

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The museum has an in-depth timeline on the investigation and prosecution of Timothy McVeigh,  Terry Nichols and Michael and Lori Fortier.  I won’t go into too much detail on them, or the reasons behind the bombing. For me, this visit was about honoring the victims and the survivors. But I will say that McVeigh was sentenced to death, Nichols is serving a life sentence, Michael Fortier served 12 years, and Lori was given immunity in exchange for her testimony.

Timothy McVeigh was stopped at 10:17 am, just seventy-five minutes after the bombing, on I-35 by an Oklahoma State Trooper for having a missing license plate on this 1977 Mercury Grand Marquis.  During questioning, the trooper noticed McVeigh had a concealed handgun, and took him into custody.

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By April 22, federal investigators had put together enough evidence from the bombing site to come up with a suspect, McVeigh, and discovered he was being held in Perry, Oklahoma on the handgun related charges.  He was taken into federal custody, and was wearing this t-shirt at the time of his arrest.  The Latin phrase means “Thus always to tyrants,” and was the phrase John Wilkes Booth shouted when he shot President Lincoln.  McVeigh’s booking photo is in the bottom corner of the photo.

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On May 23, 1995, the Murrah Building was imploded.  At the time, it was thought there were just two remaining bodies in the building, both employees of the credit union.   They allowed the two families to hold a memorial service prior to the implosion.  After the implosion, they found the remains of three bodies.  The third person, who had been reported missing a week before the implosion by his sister, was believed to have been in the credit union as a customer during the explosion.

The last part of the museum is the Gallery of Honor, where photographs of all 168 victims are on display, along with mementos provided by family members. Putting a face with a name, and seeing the objects in the display cases, was a heartfelt way to remember the victims.   The name of every victim is read over a speaker in the room.  The room is a wonderful memorial, but difficult to walk through, without fighting back the tears.

The museum has a STEM lab, for teachers and students to learn more about the bombing, forensics and investigations, and how to engineer and build structures that can withstand both natural and man-made disasters.

The one thing I will always remember from my visit to the museum, is how well everyone came together to help each other out.  It was even noted in the museum that the crime rate in Oklahoma City was almost non-existent for weeks after the bombing. The resilience of the people in Oklahoma City is amazing. I left the museum emotionally drained, but at peace knowing good always conquers evil.

Quote of the Day:  “We don’t even know how strong we are until we are forced to bring that hidden strength forward.  In times of tragedy, of war, of necessity, people do amazing things.  The human capacity for survival and renewal is awesome.” – Isabel Allende

Oklahoma City Memorial (part one)

Oklahoma City has been a ‘bucket list’ item for me for many years.  In particular, visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial.  April 19, 1995 is a day cemented in my memory, as it started out with an early morning telephone call from my sister Margie, saying she was in labor, and heading to the hospital.  I had asked if I should come to the hospital, and she said no, she would call later and let me know.  And then I went to work and waited and waited (remember, this was before text messaging, and the days of “instant” everything!).  But then I received word that my sister had a beautiful baby girl, Hannah Catherine!  A wonderful start to the day!

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But the world as we knew it, greatly changed at 9:02 am, April 19, 1995, with the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.  What started out, for me, as a joyous occasion, became a day of sorrow and confusion.  Even though it has been 23 years, I do remember that day well.  When I went to see my sister in the hospital, and met my niece for the first time, I recall my sister was emotionally drained by the days events.  She had just given birth to her first child, only to turn on the television in the morning to see babies and children being carried out of the building.  It was a horrifying scene.  Of the 168 people killed in the bombing, 19 of them were children, as there was a daycare in the federal building that many employees used.

This is a picture that I took of a photo on display at the museum, showing the devastation from the blast.

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And the site as it looks today, as viewed from a window in the museum.

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It was an emotional day 23 years ago, and it was an emotional and difficult day for me when we visited the memorial.  I had to choke back a lot of tears in the museum and at the memorial site.  I just kept thinking about what my sister had gone through that day, but kept telling myself that out of something so horrible, life does keep going on.  There are really two parts to the memorial:  A museum which chronicles the events of that day, with many first hand survivor stories, and an outdoor memorial, honoring the victims, survivors, first responders, and children.

The museum is located in a building that was across the street from the federal building. (it is the building in the foreground from the photo above).  It was an office building at the time, and was one of over 300 buildings in the downtown area that sustained damage from the blast.  Although no one was killed in this building, many were injured from ceilings collapsing, and broken glass from the windows getting blown out.

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The outdoor memorial consists of the gates of time, a reflecting pool, field of empty chairs, survivor wall, survivor tree, rescuer’s orchard, children’s area and the fence.  Today’s blog will just cover the outside memorial.

When you approach the museum from the parking lot, 200 feet of the original chain-link fence that surrounded the bomb site is still in place. Over 60,000 items were put on the fence, and have been collected and archived in the museum.   And even today, people continue to place items on the fence, especially shoes, in memory of the victims and survivors.  Many of the bombings survivors talked about how they had their shoes literally blown off their feet during the blast, and first responders reported finding many shoes, but no bodies, during their initial search and rescue efforts.

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After viewing the fence, you walk up through the gates of time.  Two very large walls that frame the time of the events.  9:01 am, when it was just another day…

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And then 9:03 am, when the time for healing began…

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In between is the reflecting pool, symbolizing 9:02 am, when the bombing occurred, and the world was forever changed.  The pool and gates of time is where N. W. Fifth Street, the street in front of the federal building, was located at.

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After the Murrah building was imploded, a few walls remained standing, despite going through not one, but two blasts.  These walls were left in place, and the names of the survivors are on one of the walls.

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An American Elm tree was located between the Murrah building, and the office building that is now the site of the museum.  Despite the blast, that tree survived, and has become known as the Survivor Tree.  Arborists have carefully maintained this tree, and every year seeds from the tree have been given out to families of the victims as well as the survivors, for planting.  It is a symbol, once again, of life continuing on from a tragic event.

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The Survivor’s Tree overlooks the Rescuer’s Orchard, to honor all the first responders, medical personnel and volunteers that helped out.  The inscription along the base of the survivor’s tree states “To the courageous and caring who responded from near and far, we offer our eternal gratitude, as a thank you to the thousands of rescuer and volunteers who helped.”

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Rescuer’s Orchard

Right in front of the entrance to the museum is the Children’s Area.  Thousands of tiles painted by children were sent to Oklahoma City after the bombing, and they have been placed on a wall.

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The most somber area is the Field of Reflecting Chairs, located where the Murrah building was located.   There are 168 chairs, each bearing the name of a victim of the bombing.  Nineteen of the chairs are small, for each of the children.  There are nine rows of chairs to represent each floor of the building, and five chairs are off to the right, representing the five victims killed outside of the building.  The chairs have a light underneath them, but we did not go back to see the memorial at night.

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Across the street, and not part of the official memorial, is a statue, Jesus Wept, on the grounds of St. Joseph Catholic Church, which was also damaged in the bombing.  There are 19 black granite pillars surrounding the statue, for the children.

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I found the outdoor memorial to be a well-designed tribute and remembrance to the victims, survivors, first responders and volunteers that came together after this tragic event.  It was very emotional and humbling to see.

There was just too much to put in one post on this memorial.  My next post will be on the museum itself.   As I started this post about my sister Margie, and niece Hannah, I will end it with them as well.  Happy Birthday Hannah!

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Hannah and my sister, Margie

My Quote for the Day is from the quote on the back of the Gates of Time:

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“We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever.  May all who leave here know the impact of violence.  May this Memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.”

Oklahoma!

After a wonderful 10 day visit with my sister LuAnn, it was time to say our goodbyes and head on to a new state to explore, Oklahoma.  We had a short 200 mile trip north, and found a nice campground right in the city, Roadrunner RV Park.  Their website is outdated, because it does not show the brand new section that we stayed in, as well as the new office and laundry facility.  It was a very convenient spot to stay for four nights.

Since Oklahoma City is the state capital, I wanted to go and see the capitol building.  The capitol is currently undergoing a major renovation with new windows, elevators, air conditioning and other upgrades, which is why it is covered in tarps and scaffolding.  Oklahoma City is the only capital in the United States that has a working oil rig on the grounds.  Also, the dome on the capitol building, was not added until 2002.  The original plans called for a dome, but when the capitol was finished in 1917, they left the dome off.  The entire building cost $1.5 million to build, and the dome would have cost an additional $250,000 at that time.  The total construction cost to add it on in 2002 was $21 million!  At the top of the dome is a 17 foot statute, “The Guardian,” which pays honor to the large Native American population in Oklahoma.  And, as you can tell by the flags, it was very, very windy.  It was windy the entire time we were there.

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Here’s a view from the ground floor, looking up into the dome.

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This is the chamber for the 101 members of the Oklahoma House of Representatives.

img_1629And the chamber for the 48 members of the Oklahoma Senate.img_1623

During the time we were in Oklahoma in March, they were debating about giving teachers a pay increase.  I saw this sign hanging on one of the doors in the legislatures offices, and found it to be both timely and appropriate to the current events.

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Oklahoma City is home to the National Softball Hall of Fame and Museum, (free), and we stopped in to check out their displays on the history of softball, and to view the memorabilia from legendary softball players, and the United State’s Olympic Softball Team, which won gold medals in 1996, 2000, 2004, and a silver medal in 2008.  Softball was then discontinued as an Olympic sport, but will return again in 2020.

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We looked for a hall of fame display for our friend Steve C., but he apparently has not yet been nominated!  Someday Steve, you will have your own display case like these hall-of- famers!

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After our visit we decided to check out a “hole in the wall” type diner near the campground that was pretty  busy, so we stopped in for lunch and were a bit surprised when the waitress asked if we wanted “smoking, or non-smoking!”  We haven’t heard that question in years, and both looked to our left at the smoking area, which was completely enclosed in glass walls, with its own doors, and full of patrons.  We don’t smoke, so we opted for the empty, non-smoking area.  We are not sure what the smoking laws are in Oklahoma, but this was certainly the reason this place was so busy!

We did many things in our short stay in Oklahoma City.  Our next blog will discuss the main reason for our visit.

Quote of the Day:  “I’m from Oklahoma.  I mean you can’t have good hair in Oklahoma.  That’s why everyone wears hats.  The wind just messes it up.” –  Ronnie Dunn

George W Bush Presidential Library

When we started out on our travelling adventures in 2013, we stopped in Springfield, Illinois to see the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.  At that time, we decided it would be fun to see all the Presidential Libraries at some point in the future.  Fast forward to March 2018, and we finally made it to our second library, for the 43rd President of the United States,  President George W Bush, located on the campus of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas.  First lady Laura Bush attended SMU, which is why it is located there.

P1010546 (3)The museum is laid out in an easy to follow format, consisting of the four principles important to the Bush’s: Freedom, Responsibility, Opportunity and Compassion.  There is full-size reproduction of the Oval Office, complete with the furniture, statues, and photographs that were on display in the real Oval Office.  I opted to check out the desk, with my sister LuAnn as “Secretary of Education” standing by!

P1010551And of course I needed a conference with my “Cabinet” members.

P1010563 (2)The museum starts out with panels detailing the early years of Bush’s life and his family.

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Then you watch a short movie narrated by President Bush, with his reflections on what it meant to be president, and how the tragedy of 9/11 changed the agenda of his presidency.  Then you enter a room with one of his signature pieces of legislation, “No Child Left Behind.”

8837E691-B534-4A60-BD25-E6BF64B24CC4One of First Lady Laura Bush’s platforms was “Ready to Read, Ready to Learn,” to improve early childhood education.  On display were the books from a reading list that she recommended for children of all ages.  We recognized many of the titles, as books that we had read as children.

7FFB392C-EAFD-450A-B5F1-E042386177FBPresident Bush’s passion is baseball, and there is a display of many of the autographed balls and bats on display throughout the museum.  He was the first former Little League player to be elected President of the United States, and started a new White House tradition to play tee ball games on the grounds of the White House in 2001.  The bat in this display case was signed by 46 of the 62 living members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  Priceless!

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When you round the corner of the museum, from the display of his early domestic policy work, the lighting is darker, and you are faced with a very in-depth, day-by-day timeline of the events surrounding the 9/11 Terrorist Act.  The museum contains steel from the World Trade Center, and has a memorial wall listing the names of every victim of the attack.

4A99B456-0A39-40C6-9254-5701D7EC3A96The television screens on the memorial walls shows the attacks at each of the locations.

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There are display cases showing speeches, letters, newspapers and other memorabilia from the days following the attack.  This display case contains the American flag that flew over the White House on September 11, 2001.

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Another display case contains memorabilia from the war in Iraq, including the 9mm Glock Model 18C Automatic Pistol confiscated from Saddam Hussein during his capture on December 13, 2003.

7EA4EEBC-6419-49F3-A4D5-D325B7A16C52Before 9/11, there were 22 federal government agencies handling homeland security issues.  In 2002, President Bush, and Congress, created the Department of Homeland Security, and put all those agencies into one department.

9BE93C79-F174-496F-996A-89E4A3C2AFDFMany other major events occurred during the Bush presidency, and the museum has many displays talking about the financial crisis in 2008, Hurricane Katrina, Immigration Reform, and the Environment.

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1A76B01C-5331-4BD1-B9DF-72EA17BBC192Once you are out of the policy area of the museum, there is a fun display on life in the White House, with the official White House Easter eggs given out every year…

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To photographs, china and formal wear worn at official State dinners…

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And some of the sports related items given to the President during visits by many sports teams.

5ACB1045-117B-47D6-A838-DFC699A7E35APresident Bush had two dogs during his White House days, Barney and Miss Beazley.  They have their own display case complete with toys, photos, letters from children and their dog dishes used when they traveled on Air Force One!

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Every President receives gifts from visiting foreign dignitaries, as well as citizens from around the world.  There were many display cases filled with jewelry, swords (seemed to be a popular gift), vases, figurines…

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…and things that made you go “what where they thinking?!”  Like these silver stirrups with gold, ruby, and emerald accents from the King of Morocco.

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At the time of our visit, the museum was hosting a special exhibit, on the influence of the First Ladies.  I did not take any photographs in that exhibit, but it was very informative, and there were many, many active  first ladies that worked hand-in-hand with their husbands.

My Quote for the Day is taken from a quote on the wall of the museum:

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TX: Perot Museum of Nature and Science

One of our options when we bought the Dallas City Pass (highly recommended if you will be in the area) is the Perot Museum of Nature and Science.  Since it was Spring Break week during our visit, it was a very busy place.  If you have ever been to a museum with a school class field trip, imagine that times 100!  It’s a great place for kids, and those young at heart, as they have five levels of inter-active exhibits.  We visited with my sister LuAnn, husband John and our niece Alicia.

The five children of former Presidential Candidate Ross Perot (yes, he is still alive) donated $50 million dollars in 2008 to purchase land in Dallas and build a museum to honor their parents.  The museum opened in December of 2012.

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There are eleven different exhibit halls, and one traveling exhibit, which happened to be The Journey to Space while we were there.  Perhaps a future trip to Mars is in Alicia’s future?

 

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LuAnn and Alicia

The exhibits cover everything from the life of birds, dinosaurs, energy and drilling, gems and minerals, engineering (complete with robots that you can play with), geology, geography, weather, etc.  There is something for everyone.  They have a small platform that you can stand on that simulates an earthquake, and you can practice being a weather forecaster.  Despite the crowds, it was a fun day.

 

They have a large display of cast skeletons, including this giant turtle…

P1010542A flying Pterodactyl with a small body, but large wing-span…

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And Tyrannosaurus  Rex, from McCone County, Montana.  North America’s top predator during the Cretaceous Period, a mere 66 million years ago…

P1010537They have many large gems and minerals on display.  What’s the difference between a gem and a mineral, you ask?  A gem is a mineral, that has been polished or cut into facets that reflect the mineral’s crystal structure.

A mineral is a naturally occurring, inorganic substance with distinct physical properties and a crystalline structure derived from its chemical composition.  Not all  minerals are gems, but all gems are minerals.  Sort of like bourbon is a whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon.  Anyway, here’s a few photos.  This is Scolecite, from Ahmednagar, India.  The crystal system is Monoclinic.

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This is a large Opal, from Opal Butte, Morrow County, Oregon.  Crystal system is Amorphous.

179068AC-1CD7-46FE-86E4-AB5150F21682This is Rhodochrosite, Crystal system is Trigonal.  It is from the Sweet Home Mine, Mount Bross, Alma District, Colorado.

CC270A1C-FC6F-41FF-A6AA-6A1C6F095219And finally, this one is Cavansite and Stilbite.  Crystal system Orthohombic, from the Wahgoli Quarry in Maharashtra, India.  The display of minerals was very interesting.

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The museum has several 3D educational movies as well.  For those with young children, they do have an area just for children 5 and under.  It was nice to see so many families, with children of all ages, spending time learning.

 

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John, LuAnn and Alicia

Quote for the Day:  “It is so compelling to hear how many great researchers, scientists, engineers, doctors, and educators first became interested in their chosen fields as a result of visiting a great museum of science or natural history.  It is our hope that this museum can be an inspiration to the next generation of pioneers, discoverers and visionaries.”  – Nancy Perot Mulford (one of the Perot’s children)