Three Oklahoma Places to Wrestle with American History

5 minutes

This week we’re marking twenty-two years since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

That’s a weird sentence for me to type, considering I was twenty-one years old when the attacks occurred. I was a senior in college, and I’d just reported for my work-study job as a clerk at the campus gift shop when I heard that a plane had struck the World Trade Center. At the time, our shop was the only public place in that part of campus that had televisions, so it quickly filled up with people standing, staring, agape, disbelieving.

In the days that followed, I noticed a fair few of my fellow students on our North Carolina campus sought me out—after all, they knew I was from Oklahoma and had come from a community touched by terrorism. And while the Oklahoma City bombing is one of the state’s—and the nation’s—seminal historic moments, the truth is that our state has been the site of many historic tragedies. And as we gird our loins and social media accounts as another election year looms, maybe now is a time to visit some of the places in our state that bind us all as Americans.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum

Photo by Lori Duckworth

Photo by Lori Duckworth

It’s funny—most Oklahomans I know don’t spend much time visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum unless they have guests in from out of town. And that’s totally understandable: The memory of that day lives vividly for many of us even almost three decades later, so immersing ourselves in it may not be Plan A most days. But I find the Outdoor Memorial one of the most tranquil, peaceful places in town—a spot for true reflection and solitude when they’re needed. The museum underwent a massive renovation a few years back, so if you haven’t visited in awhile, might I suggest a return trip—with or without out-of-state guests?

Get There
Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, 620 N Harvey Ave Oklahoma City, OK 73102 or TravelOK.com

The Washita Battlefield National Historic Site

Photo by Lori Duckworth

Photo by Lori Duckworth

I always thought it was so weird that I grew up in a county named after General George Armstrong Custer. Especially considering that that county was near the site of one of Custer’s greatest atrocities—the massacre of Peace Chief Black Kettle’s Cheyenne village on the banks of the Washita River on a cold morning in late November 1868. Known as the Battle of the Washita, the event was less a battle than a brutal killing, as Custer’s forces slaughtered women and children along with Cheyenne warriors seeking peace. In the end, more than fifty Cheyennes were killed, along with nearly three dozen of Custer’s men who were killed or wounded in one of this country’s most senseless entries in an entirely senseless chapter of our history. Learn about it by visiting the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site near Cheyenne.

Get There
Washita Battlefield National Historic Site, 18555 Hwy 47A, Ste A Cheyenne, OK 73628 or TravelOK.com

Greenwood Rising

Speaking of senseless, is there anything more idiotic than racism? Especially when that racism causes mobs of people to burn down entire chunks of their own city, leaving countless people killed, injured, or homeless? That is the story at Greenwood Rising in Tulsa, a new museum and interpretive center that tells the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre, a two-day horror in 1921 that reduced Tulsa’s Greenwood neighborhood—also known as Black Wall Street due to its residents’ high and rising net worth—to ash. Today, Greenwood is a vibrant district bustling with activity, and Greenwood Rising is its spiritual center. This is a place every Oklahoman—every American, in fact—should make it a point to visit.

Get There
Greenwood Rising, 23 N Greenwood Ave Tulsa, OK 74120 or TravelOK.com
Written By
Nathan Gunter

A sixth-generation Oklahoman, Weatherford native, and Westmoore High School graduate, Nathan Gunter is the magazine's editor-in-chief. When he's not editor-in-chiefing, Nate enjoys live music, running, working out, gaming, cooking, and random road trips with no particular destination in mind. He holds degrees from Wake Forest University and the University of Oklahoma. He learned how to perform poetry from Maya Angelou; how to appreciate Italian art from Terisio Pignatti; comedy writing from Doug Marlette; how to make coconut cream pie from his great-grandma; and how not to approach farm dogs from trial and error. A seminary dropout, he lives just off Route 66 in Oklahoma City.

Nathan Gunter
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