OKC Memorial Reopens After Burst Pipe

Saturday, February 7th 2009, 8:47 pm
By: News On 6

Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY -- Three weeks after a burst pipe sent water gushing into the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum, players from the NBA's Thunder helped the facility celebrate a grand reopening on Saturday.

The museum flooded Jan. 16 when a pipe that feeds an air handler on the roof burst, sending water pouring into the museum.

Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum's hours and information about new and current exhibits

"It's been a tremendous 20 days of restoring the museum to where it was before the flood," said Kari Watkins, the memorial's executive director. "The hardest part has been having to turn back visitors."

No artifacts were destroyed, but the museum sustained structural damage and several walls and audio and video equipment needed to be replaced, Watkins said. Although damage estimates were preliminary,
Watkins said the total in damage and lost revenue was expected to top $250,000.

On Saturday, Thunder players Nenad Krstic and Desmond Mason helped kick off a grand reopening and then toured the museum.

Mason said he and his teammates toured the museum shortly after the team relocated from Seattle to give players a feel for its importance to the city and state.

"It's a special place, and dear to a lot of people's hearts in the city," said Mason, who played at Oklahoma State and later with the New Orleans Hornets when that franchise temporarily relocated in Oklahoma City.
"A lot of guys (on the team) really got a feel for how important that day was to the city."

Saturday was the first visit to the Memorial for Krstic, a midseason acquisition for the Thunder, but the native of Serbia is no stranger to tragedy.

"We have a lot of museums like this -- bad memories," Krstic said, recalling the Kosovo War in 1999 in present-day Serbia. "I'm just here to be a part of the community and support the city."

Watkins said an insurance policy should cover the damage to the museum and a savings account will be tapped to meet the deductible.

The outdoor memorial and indoor museum commemorates the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City that killed 168 people and injured more than 800 others.

Watkins said she was eager to have visitors return to the memorial, which averages at least 200,000 visitors each year.

"This place was meant to have life," Watkins said. "It's the education component of the outdoor memorial, which is more symbolic."