Oklahoma Firefighters Museum

Another hidden gem of a museum that we discovered in Oklahoma City is the Oklahoma Firefighters Museum. The small museum is bursting at the seams with a wonderful display of equipment.  Retired firefighters volunteer at the museum, and they are an excellent resource for discussing the equipment on display.

There is a nice tribute to the firefighters that responded to the Oklahoma City Bombing, including patches from the departments that assisted in the recovery efforts.

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There is a small tribute to “America’s First Fireman” Benjamin Franklin. In 1736, he created a volunteer fire department in Philadelphia.  Volunteers supplied their own buckets.

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The museum has a display of firefighting equipment over the years, starting with several hand drawn pieces of equipment.  As “prehistoric” as these trucks look, they were a technological advancement over firefighters carrying buckets of water to fight a fire.  This is the 1870 New Richmond Hunneman Hand Pumper.  It was a Class A Pumper that required 24 men to operate it at full capacity.  The hose was rolled up and stored on the attached rear cart.

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Thanks to a wonderful volunteer, Dan was able to demonstrate how a firefighter pushed the truck to a fire.  The Hunneman pumper is named after William Cooper Hunneman, an apprentice of Paul Revere, who designed the pumper truck.

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This was a hand drawn ladder truck.

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The next generation of technology was the horse-drawn equipment.  Two horses would stand near the steamer, and the harnesses would drop down onto the horses when the fire alarm went off.

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Here is a close-up of the Steamer that was in service until 1925.  It could pump 300 gallons per minute.

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Notice the above truck is red.  There is also another horse-drawn vehicle on display, a white carriage.  This is the vehicle used by the Fire Chief.  It is smaller, so he could get to the fire scene quickly.

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The advent of the horse-drawn firefighting equipment is when the Dalmatian became the mascot of firefighters. Horse thievery was a problem, and Dalmatians were used in fire houses to protect the horses and guard the fire station.  Dalmatians adapted well to being around horses, and when the alarm went off, they led the way of the horse drawn cart, and fended off other dogs and animals that would try to approach the horses.

Horses were eventually replaced by motorized equipment.  This is a 1928 Chevrolet Chemical Hose Truck, used by Fort Cobb, Oklahoma until 1941.

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This is a 1940 American LaFrance 85 foot ladder truck, used by the Enid Fire Department.

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A 1920 Stutz engine was used in Virginia.

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This is a 1919 Seagrave Pumper used by the Guthrie Fire Department.

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The walls are covered by an extensive collection of patches from fire departments.

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Outside, there is a memorial to the fallen Oklahoma firefighters.

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The museum is hoping to raise enough money to build a bigger building, which will offer an even better experience for visitors. We salute all fire fighters and first responders who put their lives on the line everyday to protect us and help us in our greatest hour of need.

This will be my last post on Oklahoma City.  We certainly enjoyed our visit to the area, and left many things to see and do in the future.  The city was a wonderful surprise to us, and we will be back!

 

Quote for the Day:  “People are always asking me how it is that firefighters run into a burning building when everyone else is running out.  Courage is the answer.” – Chief Kennedy in Ladder 49

 

The 45th Infantry Museum

During our visit to Oklahoma City, we spent a morning visiting The 45th Infantry Museum. The Division was established after World War I, from the states of Oklahoma, Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico.  The division was called into service during World War II, and served with General George Patton’s US 7th Army division.  After WWII, the division was just for the state of Oklahoma, and reverted back to National Guard status.

The 45th Infantry Division was again mobilized for the Korean War and fought in several battles.  In 1969, the division was disbanded and restructured into several divisions.

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45th Infantry Museum and Plane

The museum contains an extensive collection of military weapons from the Revolutionary War through Vietnam.  It also contains weapons from other countries that were confiscated during various wars.

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The size and power of the weapons changed between the Revolutionary War and World War II!

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Members of the Division were part of a raid on Hitler’s residence, and brought back a lot of his personal items.

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Display cases are filled with “hi tech” equipment, used during the wars.  I’m not sure how effective this gas mask was.  Seems like it is just attached to a tin can.

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The museum has a large collection of pistols as well.

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img_1683Many jeeps, ambulances, and other vehicles are on display indoors.

Outdoors, the museum has several dozen tanks, aircraft, helicopters and monuments on display.  You can spend several hours going through the museum.

For me, the most fascinating part of the museum was a small display on the history of the Division’s insignia.  When the Division was established, their emblem was a yellow swastika on a red square, to honor the Native American and Spanish Heritage cultures of the four states forming the division.  The swastika was an Indian symbol of good luck. The Nazi party also adopted the swastika around the same time.  The division eventually stopped wearing their insignia, as the swastika took on a new meaning, and they did not want to be associated with the symbol.  What was a symbol for good luck became a symbol for evil and hatred.  The Thunderbird, another Native American symbol,  became their new emblem, using the same yellow and red color scheme.

img_1642We had never heard about this museum, or the history of the 45th Infantry Division before.  It was truly a little gem, and we would highly recommend a visit.  There is just so many things on display, and it was hard to pick out photos for this blog, as I have so many.

Quote for the Day:  “My first wish is to see this plaque of mankind, war, banished from the Earth.” – George Washington

Time to head West

I still have a few more blogs to do on Oklahoma and Arkansas, but I thought I better get to “current time” on the blog, since a few family and friends have wondered where we are.  We will be leaving Wisconsin today, and heading west to our summer job at Luton’s Teton Cabins near Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming (30 miles south  of Yellowstone National Park).

We made it back to Wisconsin for a surprise Easter Day (April 1st) visit with Dan’s parents.  They didn’t think we would be arriving so soon, as they thought we were in Branson, Missouri.  Our fifth wheel is parked at Dan’s sisters house in Hortonville, but we spent most of our time at his parents house in Oconto Falls.  Dan’s father was diagnosed with stage 3 bladder cancer in January, and we wanted to be back in time for his surgery. As mentioned in an earlier blog, Dan did fly back to Wisconsin for a few weeks when his Dad started his chemo therapy treatments back in February.

We did make it down to the Milwaukee area for a quick visit with family and friends and to take care of some dental and doctor visits.  However, the bulk of our time has been spent at Dan’s parents house.  In addition to pre-surgery visits, Dan’s parents had a few “honey do” items for Dan.

On April 19, his dad (Stu) underwent a 9 hour surgery to remove the bladder and prostate, and reattached his ureters to a stoma, where the urine will now come out.  The surgery was very successful, and after 7 days in the hospital, he came back home, to finally get some rest.  The nurses in the hospital were quite impressed by how quickly he recovered.  He walked multiple times each day in the hospital, followed under the watchful eye of Joan!

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Every day he has been getting stronger and more independent (well, as much as Joan, Dan’s Mom, will let him….!) He walks everyday and he is hoping to hit the golf course very soon! We are very thankful that we had the time to spend with them, and help both of his parents adjust to their new way of life.

The same day as Stu had his surgery, my brother-in-law John (that we just visited in Texas) had heart bypass surgery.  He is on the mend as well, but they have been through a lot in the past 10 months.  We are thankful that we could visit them in March, and hope to be back to Texas within the next year or two.

The weather in Wisconsin right now is perfect, mid 70’s.  It’s been a huge change in the past 5 weeks.  We were snowed in a few weeks ago, with over 16 inches of snow by Dan’s sisters, and 30 inches of snow by Dan’s parents!  It was an official blizzard, and everything was shut down in the area.  Many of the high schools had their Proms cancelled.  And of course, we ran out of propane!  We have two 40 pound tanks for our fifth wheel.  When the stores finally opened back up after two days, it was a brisk 45 degrees in the fifth wheel! (which isn’t so bad when you have a hot flash!)   Since we are only plugged in to a 20 amp circuit, we can only run a space heater, in addition to the propane furnace.

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As usual, we didn’t have time to see everyone that we wanted, but are grateful for the time we did have here, and the family and friends we did meet up with. We also made a quick visit to check out our friends Keith and Judy’s new fixer-upper home on Kelly Lake.  They have a beautiful view of the lake from their deck, and we look forward to seeing the progress with their renovations in the future (and a 50 amp outlet!!)

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Quote for the Day:  “A nurse will always give us hope, an angel with a stethoscope.” – Carrie Latet

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.”