We seem to have this inexorable pull toward places and situations that move us.
Though I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum a few weeks ago almost by accident, it was no accident that the place moved me and my colleagues. Artists, architects, historians, construction workers, landscapers and others have artfully rendered earth, water, plants, concrete, metal and the remaining buildings in such a way that the import of that place reaches beyond our jaded facades and resonates with something deep within us.
In such places, we willingly give to the scene our most precious of resources, our attention. We heed the messages taught there. We listen. We learn. But in places like this, we learn with our senses as much as with our minds.
While I wandered through the memorial, I looked around me and took in all the visuals elements. Next, I noticed the sounds: the background rumble of nearby traffic, the low, solemn voices of other visitors, the whispers of wind and water.
Taste and smell didn’t get their fair share this day, but I more than compensated with touch. As I stood at one end of the reflecting pool, at the suggestion of my colleague, I reached down into the pool’s water deep enough to wet my whole palm. I then turned around and placed it on the cool metal structure – one of two book-ended entry gates – behind me.
My palm print on the dark metal joined dozens of others still visible on this day and likely thousands of others, long since evaporated. They mirror the painted hand prints that surround an area outside the museum where children can leave their own messages in chalk.
Her words will last only slightly longer than my hand print. What we leave behind rarely lasts. But by engaging this place through our senses, what is now imprinted in us both from our time here likely will.