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Friday, November 12, 2010

Oklahoma City National Memorial

As my regular readers already know, Nitty Gritty Pretty is all about upcycling, repurposing, and transforming trash into treasure, but did you know that I have a day job?  I work as a technical writer for an aerospace component manufacturer in Illinois and occasionally my work requires me to travel out of state. My recent business travels took me to Oklahoma City, OK to visit a potential customer.

While I was in Oklahoma City, I promised myself that I would pay my respects to the Oklahoma City National Memorial. But let's rewind the tape a little for reference, shall we? On April 19, 1995, I was a typical self-absorbed college puke at Northern Illinois University, a place that would later come to be associated with a different kind of horror all its own. I was busy doing the kind of stuff that most self-absorbed undergraduates are known to do: drink alcohol, flirt, protest just for the sake of protesting, listen to Nirvana, drink alcohol, write horrible poetry, complain about "the establishment" and occasionally show up for class. Hung over.

So when the bombing in Oklahoma City happened, I was like "Dude. That really sucks. Of course it's the Arabs." Unfortunately, many other people in this country thought exactly the same way I did. We were collectively insulated by our ignorance. I hid behind my own ignorance for a very long time, I am ashamed to admit. Eventually, the news of the bombing faded from the press, I miraculously graduated from NIU with my degree in English, entered the work force, and started paying taxes. I was living the American Life. I thought I had a pretty good handle on things. But I still didn't know about what went on in Oklahoma City on that terrible day back in 1995. Maybe I didn't want to know. Maybe it was just easier to forget about Oklahoma City in light of the tragedy surrounding September 11, 2001.

So I decided I didn't want to be stupid anymore so I drove to downtown Oklahoma City, parked, and the first thing I saw was this majestic elm tree. The first glimpse of this tree is truly awe-inspiring. It literally took my breath away.

This is the Survivor Tree. This beautiful elm survived all the destruction going on around it and today it gives people hope and inspiration. It is a place people can go for healing. To run their hands over its trunk and remember. To reflect on what this tree has seen. To pray and to atone. This is where I started learning about what happened at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.

April 19, 1995 began just like any other ordinary spring day. People were going to work, showing up for appointments, taking their children to daycare. At 9:01, life was simple. By 9:02, 168 people lost their lives. Innocent people. Mothers, fathers, best friends, aunts, cousins, neighbors. Children. 19 children under the age of 6.

Shoes recovered from the wreckage of the Murrah Building. The child's shoe top left belonged to little Ashley Eckles. She died in the bombing. She was 4 years old.

Artifacts recovered from the Murrah Federal Building.
Will we ever know why? No. There is no why. There is no reason or logic. There was an unspeakable act of violence and there were consequences. I urge you to learn more about Oklahoma City. Please take time to learn more about the victims and the survivors. April 19, 1995 changed the city and the state forever. It should have changed the whole country, but I don't think it did. But it changed me. It took a long time, but I am a different person after experiencing the peace that now resides in that sacred place. Every American should learn the story of what happened here. Every American should get to know the unique and special lives that were lost and the heroes that sacrificed so much in the minutes, hours, days and weeks following. Visiting this special monument is crushingly painful, profound, haunting, liberating, peaceful, and awe-inspiring all at once. Remember Oklahoma City.

This is all that remains of the Murrah Building.

9 rows of chairs representing 9 floors of the Murrah Building. People died on all 9 floors. The smaller chairs are for the children who were killed.

1 comment:

  1. Great post! I felt like I was there with you.



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