Tuesday, April 17, 2007

12 Years and Healing - Lest We Forget


We didn't call it that.

If you lived in Oklahoma City you called the building on 5th and Hudson the Federal Building. Some may have called it the Social Security building, but it turns out to have actually had a name - The Alfred B. Murrah Building. When the media moguls asked me about the Murrah Building a day or so after the bombing I remember asking Tom Brokaw if there had been a second bombing of another building. (Shows you that I wasn't really watching much of the news that day after the first few hours.)

To the media, to the police who were doing their initial investigations, and to the people who kept pampering me for days and days, I was considered a survivor of the then worst terrorist act on American soil. The Oklahoma City Bombing - but I didn't feel like, and I never call myself a survivor. I wasn't IN the building. I was going to the building at the time of its explosion. Yes, I felt it of course, and I was thrown to the ground. My elbows bled from where I struck the ground, but I didn't see a thing. I couldn't see much - black smoke billowed forward from the building - I was walking north, the back of the building was nearly perfectly in tact. Besides, I thought a gas main had exploded under my feet on Robinson, and thought another would occur any second as the ground continued to rumble uncomfortablely. I ran.

I remember running east a block to Broadway and then south to the Myriad Convention Center (Cox Communication Convention Center now) and I remember finding my dad's truck. I remember starting the truck and the strange and unusual music coming from the speakers. I couldnt turn it down - I couldn't turn it off. It wasn't the radio. There was no radio in the truck - it was the music of multiple (hundreds) 0f sirens blowing all around the city, all around th convention center, all around downtown - and the music got louder and stronger - I drove away.

I had two interviews that day at the same hotel, the Medallian, I don't remember exactly which position was at what hour, but I had a 10:00 a.m and a 3:00 p.m. appointment for an office manager position and an account executive position. I remember thinking I needed to call someone and tell them I wouldn't be coming in. Almost by remote control my dad's truck headed 27 miles north, northeast to where he kept it in a little garage outside his house - walking into the house I think the television was already on. He kept it on to ward off strangers who may come into the country and want to knock on his door. If he wasn't home it would appear that he was - he and mom were both out that day.

I saw images on the television of a building, but it didn't feel right. I didn't recognize it, and again I thought the downtown area of my city was being taken by ambush by century old pipes, fire, and spewing gas - I smelt the natural gas, I saw the black curtain of smoke blowing slowly slowly upward, it had to be an main. The tickler on the television read "Oklahoma City, Oklahoma - unknown bomber, hundreds die in tragic terrorist attack." Terriorist? Someone used that word in the same sentence with Oklahoma City? There must be a mistake.

Twelve years have passed, some very good, some very bad. All of them have been marked as the first terriorist act on American soil, and until 9/11 it was called the worst. I wish it still were - I truly wish it still were. In Oklahoma we have a saying "Lest We Forget". A memorial was built of course, 168 copper, glass, and marble benches represent the dead while a side of the builiding remains in close proximity to where the Social Security office stood on the northeast side of the building when it stood. There is a wall with the names of hundreds of people who were in the building, around the vicinity, who were effected by the blast - I declined to have my name added to it. Not only because I was literally going to the Social Security Office to have my name legally changed on my S.S. card, (maiden name restored) but also because I never considered my plight as dire as those in or nearer the building. I was just a regular citizen that day - maybe closer than most, but certainly not to be remembered as a true survivor.

If it were up to me - we would etch our names into the sky and the dirt surrounding the grounds - to be remembered silently as a united Oklahoma - it would take every one of us to change ourselves for the future to be a future. If it were up to me - the benches would be trees - living and standing in complete defiance to the men who carried out this horrific act. I'm not saying that it would be a better memorial - no way - but it would say we are still living. We are still strong, perhaps more so. There's something else we did that day, that week, that month, and that year or lifetime that followed - We created and we set in stone a coined phrase to be used after 9/11: The Oklahoma Standard.

What it means to live the Oklahoma Standard is to give more, be stronger, stay focused, help more, heal when you can, and not to hurt just to hurt - don't let someone take from you - give it to him/her. Give it, and never expect it back - do more...and just be there when you're needed to be. If nothing else - listen better, longer, harder - and pray for the best to happen. The Oklahoma Standard is NOT easy - it is NOT something to be taken lightly, and often times I find myself literally putting my hand over my mouth before I spew like the main on Robinson Street - noxious venom which can't be returned. Lest We Forget - we're still healing too. But we're not alone, and neither are you.

Boomer Sooner!

No comments: