April 19, 1995.
If you have spent any amount of time in Oklahoma, you know this day. It’s the day the world shifted on it’s axis for the people in Oklahoma City.
On April 19, 1995 I was a nine-year-old third grader in Edmond. At 9 a.m. I was sitting in our morning assembly as the school day was starting. At 9:02 a.m. the ground shook when, 17 miles away, a bomb went off.
Our teachers must have had some idea of what was going on that day, even in the age before the internet and cell phones and instant news access. And, in the way teachers do, they protected their students. They kept the day normal, they kept our hearts safe.
They must have wondered where our parents worked. They must have worried what we would face when we went home. They surely were frantic to get in touch with their own loved ones.
I remember arriving home from school that day – I walked in the front door and my mom was on the phone. She didn’t hear me come in, so I caught a snippets of her conversation.
“…the first reports said it was a courthouse…couldn’t get a hold of him…awful…my heart sunk….”
I finally interrupted when I realized she sounded like she’d been crying. I asked her what was wrong.
“There was a bomb, honey. Somebody set off a bomb in a building downtown. But Daddy’s okay.”
I walked off, not sure what to make of it. Unaware in that moment of how BIG this was. A bomb? In Oklahoma? It didn’t make sense. Could there be a bomb at my school tomorrow? Did they catch the Bad Guy?
My parents must have wondered how to talk to my brother and I about this. How could they make us feel safe & secure when something so awful happens in our community?
In the days and weeks after the bombing, I watched the news with my parents. I watched harrowing scenes of mothers and fathers running towards the building to get to their children. Those images will never leave me.
But there are other images that I will always remember: The brave people. The helpers. In some ways I feel fortunate to have learned at a young age how strong this city is. How good these people are. How, when a man with evil in his heart wanted to destroy so much more than a building, we stood up as a community and said No. Not us. Not our town. We will show you what we’re made of and you will not break us.
Twenty years later, I work in downtown Oklahoma City – and I drive past the Memorial often.
Twenty years later, I have a one year old daughter.
Twenty years later, it is not hard for me to imagine my child in a daycare a few blocks away from my office.
I try to put myself in the shoes of the parents on that day, the ones running toward the building. I try to think about what they must have felt and thought as they realized what was happening – but my heart won’t let me. But I do think of them. I think of them often.
What I want them to know is this – I remember. And I will tell my daughter your stories. Together, we will remember you. We will remember your children. We will remember your loved ones and your co-workers and your friends. We will remember.
We have shown them what we’re made of and they have not broken us.