History and Mission

On the morning of April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh parked a rental truck with explosives in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and at 9:02am, a massive explosion occurred which sheared the entire north side of the building, killing 168 people.

The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was a United States Government office building located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. The federal building was constructed in 1977 at a cost of $14.5 million, and was named for federal judge Alfred P. Murrah, an Oklahoma native. By the 1990s the building contained regional offices for the Secret Service, the Drug Enforcement Agency (D.E.A.), and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF), and other agencies.

Following the investigation which resulted in the execution of Timothy McVeigh and the sentence of life without parole for Terry Nichols, the surviving structure was demolished with explosives on May 23, 1995. The entire 3.3 acre site subsequently became home to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, a place to honor the victims, survivors and rescue workers, and to learn the impact of violence.

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.

Like the response to the event it was meant to commemorate, the creation of the Oklahoma City National Memorial has been a cooperative effort involving many people and all levels of government.

From the first hours after the April 19, 1995 bombing, Oklahomans began to create small makeshift memorials around the perimeter of the bombsite – mounds of flowers, stuffed animals, personal notes, cards and prayers. Later, after the Murrah Building was demolished and removed, a chain link fence secured the footprint of the building. The Fence became Oklahoma’s – and America’s – memorial. Each day, visitors would hang mementos on the fence. Items including poems, key chains, brief scribbled messages of condolence and support, event convention badges, car tags and airline ticket stubs were left by visitors to Oklahoma City. The Fence has been preserved, and a portion of it is a part of the permanent memorial to allow visitors the opportunity to continue to leave personal messages of hope, comfort and goodwill.

In the months after the bombing, it became apparent that there was overwhelming support for the creation of a major, permanent memorial where the Murrah Building once stood. Then- Mayor Ron Norick appointed a 350-member task force to explore ways to remember this tragic event, and especially to honor the 168 Oklahomans who died. In March 1996, the task force issued its report.

In the Memorial Mission Statement, the Task Force called for the creation of a memorial to “…remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever…” – in short, all who were touched directly or indirectly by the bombing. The Task Force also called for a memorial that would include three major components:

1. A symbolic outdoor memorial on the Murrah Building site and along NW Fifth in front of the building footprint.

2. The Memorial Museum, a 30,000 square foot interactive learning museum to tell the story of April 19, 1995, and how the chaos turned to hope in the days following the terrorist attack.

In September 1996, the Task Force became the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation, a private 501(c)(3) dedicated to fulfilling that mission. From the very beginning, the committees were drawn from the families who lost loved ones in the bombing, survivors of the bombing, rescue workers and volunteers who participated in the rescue and recovery efforts and community volunteers. The first task after completing the Memorial Mission Statement was to solicit design concepts for the outdoor memorial.

After an international design competition was commenced, 624 entries from all 50 states and 23 countries were received. These designs were put on public display for several days. More than 10,000 people filed past the designs. The field was narrowed to five designs and a final design was selected and announced in July 1997. The design was submitted by Butzer Design Partnership then of Berlin, Germany, and now of Oklahoma City. Designers Hans and Torrey Butzer with Sven Berg created the Oklahoma
City National Memorial.

Shortly after the final design was selected, President William J. Clinton signed Public Law 105-58 on October 9, 1997. This law created the Oklahoma City National Memorial as a unit of the National Park System and designated the Oklahoma City National Memorial Trust to own and operate the Memorial. This law also authorized appropriations of $5 million to be used until expended on construction of the Memorial and Memorial Museum. The amount was matched by an equal appropriation by the State of Oklahoma. More than $17 million of private donations were also raised to construct the Memorial and to secure an endowment for maintenance and operations.

The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial was dedicated on April 19, 2000, the fifth anniversary of the bombing. President William J. Clinton joined more than 20,000 people to dedicate the site. President and Mrs. George W. Bush dedicated the Memorial Museum on Presidents’ Day, February 19, 2001. While the symbolic Memorial is open to the public at no charge, an admission fee to the Memorial Museum will provide necessary funding to operate the Memorial and Memorial Center.

Organization and Operations

In January 2004, President George W. Bush signed into law a bill that amended the original legislation, dissolved the Oklahoma City National Memorial Trust and transferred the Memorial to the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation, the 501(c)(3) organization that originally created and organized, raised the money and built the Memorial and Museum. The National Park Service is authorized under the legislation to continue to provide the same level of interpretive services they always have on the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial.

The Memorial staff is headquartered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, housed in offices in the Memorial Museum Building, a restored historic building on the National Register of Historic Places. The building, adjacent to the Murrah site, also received severe bomb damaged on April 19, 1995.

The Memorial Foundation carries out the programs of the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Day-to-day operations of the Memorial and Memorial Museum, education and outreach, marketing this historic site and a high standard of maintenance and operations will continue to be the top goals for the Memorial in the coming fiscal year.

Both the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial and the Memorial Museum are maintained and operated by the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation. The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial is a 3.3 acre site featuring 168 glass based chairs, Gates of Time, a 318-foot Reflecting Pool, Survivor Chapel, Rescuers’ Orchard, Children’s Area and the Survivor Tree.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum is an interactive learning museum that occupies the west end of the former Journal Record Building. Built in 1923, this building withstood the April 19, 1995, bombing and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The second component mandated by the Memorial’s mission statement, the Memorial Museum takes you on a self-guided tour through the story of April 19, 1995, and the bombing of Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

The Memorial Museum is a state-of-the-art interactive learning museum that tells the story of those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. By the use of more than a dozen computers and two hours of video, and more than 300 artifacts the Memorial Museum tells the story of one of the largest terrorist attack on American soil.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial & 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 Memorial and Museum to be self-sustaining. 

Press Fact Sheet

A Place of Hope and Memories

Construction Elements

Survivor Tree


620 N. Harvey, Oklahoma City  |  405.235.3313 888.542.HOPE
©2011 Oklahoma City National Memorial