The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum in Lou Berney’s The Long and Faraway Gone

PHOTO CREDIT: Mark Pelligrini. This photo is licensed under the the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

“[Wyatt] parked and crossed Robinson to the massive bronze gate at one end of the reflecting pool. Cut into the panels above the entrance was the time that morning in April of 1995—9:01—when Oklahoma City had last been whole. At the opposite end of the reflecting pool, on the other side of the grounds, was an identical gate. The time cut into that gate was 9:03, one minute after the bomb…On the spot where the Murrah Federal Building once stood, there was now an open lawn, filled with row after row of empty chairs. One hundred and sixty-eight chairs, one for each person killed in the blast. Nineteen of the chairs were sized for children.

“Two benches down from Wyatt, an older woman sat gazing at the empty chairs of the memorial. One strand of white hair lifted in the wind and then settled. Who, Wyatt wondered, had she lost? What had she lost?”

Lou Berney’s newest novel focuses on Wyatt Rivers, a Las Vegas based private investigator hired to look into the vandalism of an Oklahoma City music club. Reluctant at first to take the case Wyatt, unbeknownst to his client, is originally from Oklahoma City. He left thirty years ago as the only survivor of the Pheasant Run Movie Theater massacre. Wyatt returns to his birthplace to help Candace Kilkenny a young woman who has inherited The Land Run, a bar and music venue. As Rivers investigates, he crosses paths with Julianna, a nurse who has been
searching for her missing sister for the past thirty years. As Wyatt and Julianna try to find the
answers, they travel through memories they both have locked away for the past three decades.

Lou Berney is the author of two previous novels: Gutshot Straight (2010) (Nominated for a Barry Award) and Whiplash River (2012) (Nominated for Edgar and Anthony Awards), featuring jet-setting ex-con Charles “Shake” Bouchon. As a Boston Globe reviewer said of Berney’s Whiplash River, “Like Carl Hiaasen, Berney delights in the cartoonish. Like Elmore Leonard he can drive plot. What sets him apart is how well he evokes love, making the romance as compelling as the mystery.” Berney teaches in the Red Earth MFA Program at Oklahoma City University.

The Oklahoma City Memorial & Museum honors the victims and all affected by the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995. The National Memorial was signed into law in 1997 by President Bill Clinton and is listed in the National Registry of Historic Places. The outdoor memorial, featuring the reflecting pool and stone chairs depicted in Berney’s novel, was dedicated on April 19, 2000, the fifth anniversary of the bombing. The museum was opened on February 19, 2001. The sections of north and east walls of the Murrah Building still remain and are called the Survivor’s Walls. The names of the 600 bombing survivors are inscribed there. An American Elm tree, which was in the Murrah Building Parking lot, survived the blast and is now part of the memorial. It has grown back to full bloom, and is known as The Survivor’s Tree.

Read more about the Oklahoma City National Memorial here and on Wikipedia. Find The Long and Faraway Gone at a local library or on Amazon.

1Berney, Lou. The Long and Faraway Gone. William Morrow: An Imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. New York, NY. Print, 2015.

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