Our incredible adventure was technically over except for the long drive home looming before us. We found ourselves in Albuquerque, NM but had to make it back to Raleigh, NC.
Three long days of driving.
Thankfully we had a few stops planned for our trip home to give us something to look forward to.
Our first one was in Oklahoma City, where we were going to crash for the night. We took this opportunity to visit the Oklahoma City bombing memorial.
The Memorial is done in such a way to honor those we lost and reflect the tragedy that occured. The quiet reflecting pool is located on the site where a street formerly ran through the area.
There is an wall on either side of the pool.
Embedded on one wall is the time, 9:01, representing a time of peace before the tragedy struck. (The bombing happened at 9:02)
The wall on the opposite side shows a time of 9:03, representing the moment when the journey toward healing began.
Empty chairs sit on the lawn, arranged in 9 rows, each representative of a floor in the building where a loved one was lost.
Names are etched in the glass bottom of each chair. At night, lights illuminate the chairs.
The children’s garden displays tiles created by the children of the city. They are displayed along the wall in the back while visiting children are invited to leave their sentiments on chalkboard tiles on the ground.
Sidewalk chalk was available on site.
Recorded on the wall outside of the memorial are these words:
“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.
I am so glad we took some time to visit this site before heading to bed. It made a huge impact on my kids. They will all remember this, even if it is a vague memory in their minds.
Note: Visiting sites like this with kids can be tough. They all respond differently. My 11 year old daughter was in tears for quite some time. That’s OK. We let her express her pain and talk through it. Tragedy is difficult and we all feel things to different degrees and express those emotions in different ways. One child might cry through the pain while another might keep asking, “When are we leaving?” as they are uncomfortable with the pain (or bored because that is another response a child might experience)
On the other hand, my 6 year old thought we were going to see an actual bombing. He was disappointed that there wasn’t going to be a weapons display. He kept asking us where the bomb was. We attempted to help him understand what happened in Oklahoma City, but it is still a bit outside of his realm.
When we visit sites like this, we try to keep it short and informative. I want my children to see how a city walks through a tragedy together and how they rise above on the other side, but I don’t want a child in tears to have to sit with that sort of pain for too long. Don’t put expectations on your children’s reactions. Just help them process what they feel and validate their feelings.
The next morning, we were off for a two night stay in Nashville so we could visit friends. We have bunked with these friends in the past so the kids were eager for a return visit.
This friend is one of my BFF’s in 7th and 8th grade. We kept in touch despite the distance from Maryland to Alabama while growing up. It is such a joy to still be in touch.
Our kids have a great time together. We spent a lot of time with her youngest child while her older two were in camp.
But we took everyone for half price milkshakes at Sonic in the evening so the older kids could get in on the fun too!
And additional bonus for me this trip was meeting a friend from the world of online social media. Andi (who helps run the Nature Pal Exchange) and I met through Periscope and have continued to chat on Facebook and Instagram and other social media sites. She took the time to drive and meet up for breakfast so we could finally chat face to face.
The last day of driving was the hardest, despite the down home cooking stop at Cracker Barrel because yes ma’am I do love that place thank you very much.
But then Cracker Barrel was over and we only had our beds to look forward to, which was wonderful yet it also meant that our vacation was over.
And it is.
We are home safe and sound filled with wonderful memories about our time out west.