OKLAHOMA CITY, OK, April 19, 2012 - We’re taking a pause in our celebrity pursuit today to remember that April 19th marks the 17th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah building in downtown Oklahoma City.
Seventeen long years have passed since that explosion ripped through the Alfred P. Murrah building. But for many Oklahomans, that day is etched permanently in their minds as if it were only yesterday. On April 19, 1995, 168 innocent souls were taken away forever from friends and family, and the lives and views of Oklahomans were drastically altered in an instant.
Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols accomplished their goal of destroying lives and striking fear into the hearts of the populace by perpetrating the worst act of terrorism on domestic soil to that date. However, what they didn’t expect was the unity and strength that arose from the devastation that they created that terrible day.
In the hours, days, and weeks that would follow the bombing, a brotherhood of sorts would form among everyone affected directly and indirectly as well. People from communities all over the state and the U.S. traveled to volunteer their time to search for survivors and help in any manner that they possibly could.
Moment in time never to be forgotten
If you were to ask the majority of Oklahomans what they were doing that fateful day in April, most of them will be able to tell you exactly where they were and exactly what they were doing, right down to the most minute detail. Many will remember the panic that ensued immediately after the bombing, the fear of the unknown, and the inconsolable anguish that bore into the hearts of those whose loved ones perished that day.
The Oklahoma winds would eventually blow away the looming clouds of dust and stench that lingered in the air for what seemed like an eternity after the bombing. As time passed, the incredible stories of unlikely heroes and unbelievable survival were not forgotten as the ground was cleared of debris and the remnants of life lost. In its place, a thing of beauty evolved, much like the metamorphosis of a butterfly from a cocoon. The mass of debris transformed into the magnificent remembrance of 168 lives that it is today.
From the mouths of babes
A few weeks ago, I took my six and eight year old daughters to the Memorial at the site of the Murrah Building. As we were walking along, my six year old wanted to know why people hung stuffed animals on the fence and why there were small chairs interspersed with all the larger ones within the Memorial. I explained to her that children died that day. She quickly asked, “How could a man be so evil that he could kill babies?”
Before I could answer, my eight year old responded without hesitation, “He hated himself so much that he began to hate everyone else. That’s why he did it. He just didn’t care.” For years, so many of us searched our hearts and minds for an answer as to why someone could be so cruel to take so many innocent lives without regard. Yet, in that moment, my daughter’s seemingly simplistic response eloquently articulated the story of one human being’s cruelty to others quite well; an outpouring of hatred from man toward the rest of a nation. And this sad memorial was the final result.
From the depths of despair to hope for the future
Every year at 9:02 a.m., 168 seconds of silence are observed in memory of the lives that were lost in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Families of the victims, survivors, and people affected in some fashion or form, gather together on the hallowed ground to mourn, remember, and be grateful for the ability to move forward beyond tragedy.
The Memorial is symbolic of many things to different people. It is proof of life to those who survived that day. It is a serene memorial to loved ones lost to others. It also serves as a teacher to future generations who will have no understanding of what went on as time relentlessly passes. The significance each symbol holds is equally important, and this is why we must continue to remember.
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