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Couple Forms Special Bond With Oklahoma After Designing Bombing Memorial

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Memorial Designers Torrey and Hans Butzer were living in Germany when they began designing the memorial and have since moved to Oklahoma after forming a special bond with the state. Memorial Designers Torrey and Hans Butzer were living in Germany when they began designing the memorial and have since moved to Oklahoma after forming a special bond with the state.
The memorial opened in 2000, five years after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. The memorial opened in 2000, five years after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.

By Gan Matthews, NEWS 9

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Torrey and Hans Butzer say they have an enduring bond with Oklahoma City 10 years after designing the bombing memorial.

The Butzers were on hand in 2000 when President Bill Clinton dedicated the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

Living in Berlin in 1997, the pair saw a magazine ad about the design competition.

"We felt like this was an opportunity for us to share something that we're very personally involved with, but also seemed to fit the kind of things we are professionally passionate about," Hans Butzer said.

Torrey's Oklahoma roots added to the couple's interest.

"No matter where this would have happened, I think we would have felt just equally sad, but the fact that it was here maybe played a role in our wanting to do whatever we could to help," Torrey Butzer said. Beginning with the mission statement and its theme of both community and personal loss, the Butzers began to sketch and sketch, and talk and talk. The design of the memorial emerged through some intense dialogues.

"It's often very intense between us but in a very good way, and in the end we always come out friends," Torrey Butzer said.

Torrey and Hans can wander through their creation with a sense of fulfillment.

"One of the things that makes this memorial unique amongst memorials is the fact that it's actually built on the site of the tragedy," Hans Butzer said.

The chairs for the victims are placed in the area where they died. The reflecting pool offers tranquility--and a moment for introspection.

"We realize that, you know, by looking at the reflection that we're looking at ourselves, and that somehow this memorial softly inspires each one of us to go forward in more positive ways."

The Butzer's design was one of more than 600 entries in the competition. The winner was chosen by a panel made of civic leaders, design professionals, rescuers, survivors, and relatives of the victims.

Jeannine Gist lost her daughter Karen in the bombing. She had doubts at first that any design could fully represent the events of April 19, 1995 but the Butzers' idea of chairs for the lost won her over.

"I knew that the chairs would remember each victim, and their names would be on them, and they would be immortalized," she said.

Torrey and Hans' embrace of the Memorial eventually led them to an embrace of Oklahoma City, which they now call home.

"They're so many good things about staying, and we just fell in love with the place and said, 'we're planting our feet here,'" Torrey Butzer said.

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