Next month was meant to be a time to honor the victims of one of America’s grimmest tragedies.
Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, those plans must now change.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum had planned a live event commemorating the 25th anniversary of the April 19, 1995, bombing that killed 168 people and injured more than 600 others, according to the organization’s website.
Due to concerns over the spreading of COVID-19, however, the museum will be suspending the ceremony and releasing a recorded one-hour program in its stead.
The museum had arranged for several live performances from local Oklahoma City fine arts organizations and was planning for large crowds to be in attendance.
“As you can imagine, April 19, 2020, will not look like any other Remembrance Ceremony we have done in the past,” Kari Watkins, the executive director of the museum, said in a YouTube video released by the organization.
“While this is a very tough decision, we’re in a very tough time as a country,” Watkins said.
“This is our part to stop the spread and to be smart about how many people can congregate on the site,” she said.
Watkins wanted to assure the public that one powerful tradition of the annual remembrance ceremony will be upheld.
Standing outside of the museum are 168 empty chairs crafted from glass, bronze and stone — one for each victim of the bombing.
The memorial area of Oklahoma City Nat’l Memorial & Museum has a chair for each of the 168 victims of the bombing–it was dedicated 4/19/00. pic.twitter.com/ZHrPtbd3JU
— FBI (@FBI) April 19, 2017
Each year, families of the victims are given the chance to decorate the chairs with flowers, photos and other reminders of their dearly departed loved ones.
Although the museum has been closed since Sunday, the memorial grounds remain open, according to The Oklahoman, with Watkins hoping to allow the treasured tradition to continue.
“We will figure out how to open up the site for families to be able to come down and decorate the chairs without having too many on the site at one time,” she said.
As hard as this decision was to make, it is for the best that all Americans take the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations for COVID-19 seriously.
The virtual ceremony will air at 9 a.m. April 19 on local Oklahoma television stations, websites as well as various social media networks.
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