It’s 9:02 a.m. as I write this, and I’m remembering a 9:02 from 15 years ago…
That morning was like no other.
Except my parents were here from Michigan. I worked at my kids pre-school back then but had decided to leave them home with my folks for the day. It was one of those days where I actually had a quiet drive to work. No kids in the back squirming against their car seats. No “Mommy, she’s touching me!” to deal with.
Which has always confused me as to why I heard nothing.
About the time I got to work, where everything appeared to be normal, my parents were calling. This was before the cell phone boom and so they called the office phone.
My mom: “Katie, do you have a tv at work?”
Me: “I think so, why?”
Mom: “I think your federal courthouse was just bombed. Your house just shook and we thought a plane had crashed at Wiley Post Airport so we turned the tv on.”
Keep in mind that I live a good 15 minutes from downtown where the Murrah building is and that my house shook.
We soon found out it wasn’t the courthouse but another building.
We flipped on the tv just in time to see a helicopter flying around the side of the Alfred P. Murrah Building.
A concave form now shaped what had once been the flat side of the building. I stared at the strange collection of wires and fabric flapping in our strong Oklahoma wind that were hanging out of exposed offices with no windows left. Smoke billowed around the eerie site.
Thoughts flashed through my mind.
I had been in this building to get my children’s social security cards mere months before. I tried to make sense of where I had gone in, tried to get a grasp on the unfamiliar building now appearing over what would be days and weeks on our local television stations.
I have thought back a million times as to why I didn’t hear the blast on my drive to work. Did I have the radio on? Shouldn’t I have heard or seen something?
That day, our pre-school and local schools went into lockdown several times as the authorities and government tried to figure out who was responsible. Beginning that day and still in force today, our public school doors stay locked. You must enter through the front office door and even be buzzed in in most cases. There were rumors of threats against schools being another target and I’m sure more than one parent checked their child out and brought them home to keep them close by. I was relieved that mine were home safe with their grandparents and felt a strong desire to be home with them as soon as possible
I remember watching the devastation all week on the tv. We couldn’t turn it off. We watched brave men and women stream in from all over the country to help.
We heard about the horror from local police and medic friends who had been to the site.
What these men and women must have seen can be summed up in this photo of a fireman trying to regroup before heading back into the rubble.
During that week, everyone knew someone who had been killed in the bombing. It was strangely personal and we were touched directly by the pain of those we knew and loved. One of the students in my preschool lost her Grandma, who had worked in the credit union.
It rocked all our worlds and even the country. For you see, the Murrah bombing was a shock to us all. Even a mid-southwest Bible belt state like Oklahoma was succeptable to terrorism.
The pain grew deeper for us all here in the heartland when we realized, that this act of terrorism wasn’t caused by a mid-east country Islam terrorist, but by one of our own. He was even a former military man – Timothy McVeigh. Stranger still – my parents watched a few days later as their local newscaster in Michigan chased the F.B.I. down familiar roads not far from where they lived to search the farm of Terry Nichols, his accomplice.
I remember going to the airport to pick up someone about 2 months later and my six-year-old daughter Tori, who had formerly seemed unscathed, screamed and refused to get out of the car in the airport terminal pick-up zone. Later she would reveal that she’d heard on tv that the airports had been locked down. Somehow she reconnected with that and the airport terrified her.
I remember days afterward, driving downtown through the streets. Blocks away, we saw boards covering windows that had been blown-out from the blast. I saw the fence where, for years (and still to this day), sympathizers leave everything imaginable just because of the sadness you feel at the site.
Today there is a beautiful memorial at the bombing site.
There are 168 beautiful gold chairs that are lit from within at night, to pay tribute to each life that was lost in the Murrah bombing.
Perhaps best expressing our feelings, is the weeping statue of Jesus that sits outside the memorial. He is turned away from, what I am sure, broke his heart into a million pieces.
We have moved on over these 15 years.
The beauty of Oklahoma is that the people here are fighters, they are survivors, and they are caring, giving human beings who have not let an act of hate cause them to lose touch with who they are. If anything, the bombing regenerated and revived the love, the compassion and the spirit of pride that is Oklahoma.
But today we remember.
We remember that parents lost babies, that babies lost parents, and for that, we still observe and remember where we were, and where we are today…15 years later on April 19, 1995.
If you are from Oklahoma or not, I’d love to hear your memories of this time..please leave a comment below.
To read more stories of remembering where we were on April 19, 1995 visit the Real Housewives of Oklahoma blogsite by clicking on the button below.
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