Scattered showers were predicted for this particular day of my sophomore year at Yukon Mid-High. I was sitting two seats away from the window in Mr. Colley’s world history class, listening to an interview on the radio, while working on a map of some region of the world. I did not realize that in a few short minutes, the eyes of the world would be on our capital city.
After a couple minutes, something like thunder clapped so hard that the windows literally shook and the earth jarred. Seconds later, the interviewer, who was interviewing someone on a downtown city sidewalk, started screaming. He was hysterical. I don’t remember his words – just his confusion. He couldn’t describe what happened or what was going on but it was obvious that whatever happened left him running for a place to hide. We later learned that it wasn’t thunder that jarred our morning but instead it was a bomb that was strategically placed in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
The rest of the day was spent going from class to class, but no matter what the subject was to be covered, the topic was all the same. TV carts were rolled into the hallways and we gathered around, trying to make sense of what had happened. Was it real? Did this really happen 15 minutes away? We prayed people would miraculously survive the horror that wouldn’t turn off by changing the channel. Every newscast was the same: people on the screen covered in their own blood were doing what they could for others, who were in greater need of help; aerial shots of a building that looked like a half eaten cake with confetti blown out the side; rescue workers running in and carrying people out; and people crying and screaming as they looked for loved ones. Some students saw their parents’ faces flash across the screen – doctors and nurses trying to care for those who were hurt, while others were frantic to find out about their own parents who worked downtown. By 5th hour, they had turned the news coverage on the big screen in the pit. We all sat there watching. I sat stunned and numb.
That night followed the same pattern of the day, sitting in front of the TV unable to help and watching the rescuers sit on the sidelines because the rains halted their search for survivors. Over the next few days, weeks and months, Oklahomans as they always do, rose like waves bringing whatever help and comfort they could. Lines to donate blood formed around buildings almost immediately. Rescue workers were provided whatever was needed including food, tools, cots and were often surprised to find their gear cleaned off upon waking. There was a surge of resilience shown through the hearts of Oklahomans. The survivor tree became a symbol of that resilience and hope. To the world, the Oklahoma way of helping any way possible without hesitation became known as the “Oklahoma Standard.”
I visited the site several times within the following weeks and months. Before they imploded the building, it was a harsh desire to see for myself that it was real. And then after, it was to look at the pictures of the mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, children and friends whose lives were forever changed that day, and to leave a memento on the fence to show the families that I cared and prayed for their breaking hearts. The fence all around the site was completely covered with items that were left from all over the world. Items would be taken down and the fence would fill up again. Love and support kept rising above the hatred of that day.
Tributes could be seen on the buildings of downtown Oklahoma City. One building in particular left certain lights on in their offices at night so that it was like a huge Lite Brite shining the hope of the cross throughout the city. The song Lightning Crashes by the band Live was mixed by a local radio station so that the sounds from that day were interwoven with the lyrics. It played often and to this day I can’t hear the song without breaking into tears. For me, at least, it brought out the feelings that I was trying to hide. Something like this happens in Beirut, Ireland and Spain, not Oklahoma City. But after that day, anything was a possibility and nothing felt as safe as it did the day before.
The world took notice that day of a community stunned and hurting, but more so were taken aback and encouraged by how a group of people could ban together and show such love and strength during a dark time. It was a time when light truly overcame the darkness.
Have you Heard?
It seems that everyone in Oklahoma knew of someone who was in the building and/or who was supposed to be in the building that day. Their realities are ones to be told and many give hope to others who have gone through something similar. Sheila’s survival story is one such story, as well as Clint’s, who lost his father, Gene Hodges. The memories of the 168 who perished that day are kept alive and well not only in the hearts of those who loved them but are shared every day at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, where guests can watch videos about these loved ones, the survivors, and the rescuers. And of course, every year the world, once again, takes notice and pays tribute to them on April 19 and again on the day of the OKC Memorial Marathon.
Did You Know….
- The Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum takes $0 from local, state, or federal governments? Instead, it is self-sustaining through donations, museum admission, store sales, the OKC Memorial Marathon, and an endowment.
- Your child can earn a Jr. Ranger Badge while learning about the Memorial site? You can download a Jr. Ranger booklet or ask a Ranger for one at the site.
- Runner’s World Magazine in 2013 called the OKC Memorial Marathon “one of the 12 must-run marathons?” There are many ways you can participate in the Marathon. On April 27, 2014, you can run, walk, dash with the kids, volunteer or encourage the participants along the way with drinks or awesome signs and loud cheering voices!
If you haven’t visited the Museum or participated in the Marathon in some form or fashion, I would highly encourage you and your children to do both and see how hope rises through the ashes.