Evidence of lives well lived, lost too soon but never forgotten

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The archives of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum contain more than one million objects. Things like documents, artifacts, photographs – even pieces of the truck that contained the bomb. KOCO 5 got a glimpse inside areas most people don’t see.>> Previous Coverage: Oklahoma City bombing first responders now run their services “It’s literally coming from Miami , Florida,” Helen Stiefmiller, collections manager, said of one object. “This was left on Kevin Gottshall’s chair,” she said of another. One hundred and sixty-eight lives were lost, but thousands of stories remain. “It actually had hot sauce in it,” she said of another object. “We emptied it so we could store it.” Few people have access to the archives, located in the basement of the National Memorial and Museum. They contain more than a million objects. Some rooms are accessible to the public, but many are not. Stiefmiller has been responsible for the collections for 16 years. “It is an honor to keep track of this material and ensure it is cared for and preserved. I think it’s a great calling to make sure it’s available to people on the road,” she said. You will find a wide range of items there. Some are videotapes, documents and evidence directly related to that fateful day. >> See also: Teacher takes eighth graders to Oklahoma National Memorial and Museum. Knowing their importance is enough to give chills to a visitor. “These are actually truck parts from the Ryder Truck. They are aluminum castings in a way,” she said. “This is a piece of one of the tires from the Ryder truck.” Other objects were near the explosion. And then there is the deeply personal side of archives. Objects that were abandoned, outside the museum, in the years following the bombing. >> Previous Cover: ‘She Was Larger Than Life’: OKCPS Teacher Pays Tribute To Her Mother Killed In OKC Bombing By Running A Race With Students ‘That’s The one of the special things about working here is the families. They wanted to be able to leave very important things on the chairs of the symbolic outdoor memorial, knowing that we would pick them up and bring them,” Stiefmiller said. As you walk up and down the aisles, the names, faces, and memories can be overwhelming. Like little Zach Chavez. “He was only 3 years old and he was on the second floor of the daycare,” she said. “Zach really loved The Lion King, as you can see here.” Then you have Donald Burns. “He was an athlete, he was a coach, he was a golfer. He really, really, really loved golf,” she said, “so he was a putter who stayed on the chair of Don Burns.” And Tom Hawthorne. “The note that was on the chair with the sailboat, and it said Tom Hawthorne had this boat since he was a teenager. I miss you. Love, Donna,” she said. As we approach another anniversary, marking 27 years of empty chairs at the dinner table, 27 years of missed birthdays and Christmases and graduations and weddings, memories and memories will be once a ” Birthdays are really emotional,” she said. “In many ways, they feel like a family reunion.” Soon more will be added to the collection – reminders of lives well lived, lost too soon but never forgotten. “There were so many people involved and affected by the bombing, and we want to preserve their stories,” she said.

The archives of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum contain more than one million objects.

Things like documents, artifacts, photographs – even pieces of the truck that contained the bomb.

KOCO 5 got a glimpse of areas that most people don’t see.

>> Previous cover: Oklahoma City bombing first responders now direct their services

“It’s literally from Miami, Florida,” said collections manager Helen Stiefmiller of one object. “This was left on Kevin Gottshall’s chair,” she said of another.

One hundred and sixty-eight lives were lost, but thousands of stories remain.

“It actually had hot sauce in it,” she said of another object. “We emptied it so we could store it.”

Few people have access to the archives, located in the basement of the National Memorial and Museum. They contain over a million items.

Some rooms are accessible to the public, but many are not.

Stiefmiller has been responsible for the collections for 16 years.

“It is an honor to keep track of this material and ensure it is cared for and preserved. I think it’s a great calling to make sure it’s available to people on the road,” she said.

You will find a wide range of items there. Some are video tapes, documents and evidence directly related to that fateful day.

>> See also: A teacher takes eighth graders to the Oklahoma National Memorial and Museum

Knowing their meaning is enough to give chills to the visitor.

“These are actually truck parts from the Ryder truck. They are aluminum castings in a way,” she said. “It’s a piece of one of the tires from the Ryder truck.”

Other objects were near the explosion.

“It’s the performance hall that was right next to the Murrah building,” she said.

And then there is the deeply personal side of archives. Objects that were abandoned, outside the museum, in the years following the bombing.

>> Previous cover: ‘She was larger than life’: OKCPS teacher pays tribute to mother killed in OKC bombing as she runs with students

“It’s one of the particularities of the work here, it’s the families. They wanted to be able to leave very important things on the chairs of the symbolic outdoor memorial, knowing that we were going to pick them up and bring them,” Stiefmiller said.

As you walk up and down the aisles, the names, faces, and memories can be overwhelming.

Like little Zach Chavez.

“He was only 3 years old and he was on the second floor of the daycare,” she said. “Zach really loved The Lion King, as you can see here.”

Then you have Donald Burns.

“He was an athlete, he was a coach, he was a golfer. He really, really, really loved golf,” she said, “so it was a putter game that stayed on Don Burns’ chair.”

And Tom Hawthorne.

“The note that was on the chair with the sailboat, and it said Tom Hawthorne had this boat since he was a teenager. I miss you. My love, Donna,” she said.

As we approach another anniversary, marking 27 years of empty chairs at the dinner table, 27 years of failed birthdays, Christmases, graduations and weddings, memories and memories will begin to flood again.

“Birthdays are really emotional,” she said. “In many ways, they feel like a family reunion.”

Soon more will be added to the collection – reminders of lives well lived, lost too soon but never forgotten.

“There were so many people involved and affected by the bombing, and we want to preserve their stories,” she said.

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