I recently visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial. This is the site of the April 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City. I toured the memorial on a Sunday morning with 11 seventh grade girl scouts. While visiting I noted the behavior of the people and the atmosphere of the park.
The girl scouts were very quiet and reverent. Believe me this was the most calm, quiet and reverent moment I have experienced with them in the last seven years. Other visitors talked in low tones, and walked slowly. It was much like walking through a cemetery.
I thought about the mood of this site and the behavior of people here as opposed to many of our Civil War Battlefields. On a visit to Chickamauga NMP, I noticed a family practicing catching a baseball, others playing frisbee, bicyclist zooming through the battlefield. It had the feeling of a city park more than a memorial and site of death.
I asked my girls what made this site different than a battlefield. I reminded my daughter of her visit to Chickamauga and the people there. The girls responded that the OKC bombing included innocent people. They argued that the soldiers were fighting a battle and they had signed up to fight in a war. Several noted that the people in OKC were simply going about their work day unsuspecting. I argued that over 20,000 people died horrific deaths on the battlefield though and most were still buried on the battlefield. They did not waiver in their argument that OKC memorial deserved quiet reverence and respect for the lives lost. These smart young ladies made very good arguments.
But I could not help but think about the intentions of the veterans who created the national military parks. I am not sure they would have felt the same. They saw those fields as places of tragedy. A place where innocence was lost. I often wonder what was the mood on the battlefield parks in the early days, while the veterans and their children were still living. Would they argue against those girls’ views of the two sites? Dear reader, what do you think the attitude and atmosphere on our national military parks should be?