Tuesday, April 19, 2005

In Memoriam

On this day, ten years ago, I awoke to sunlight streaming through my bedroom window, and my mother's voice calling me to get up. At this point in my life, I had dropped out of high school to care for her after major back surgery, as she could not care for herself. Mom had a 9 a.m. appointment at Social Security in the Murrah Federal Building downtown. We were going to see if she could qualify for temporary SSI disability payments, as there was no way she would be working anytime soon.

By 8:45, my perpetually late mother was still not ready to go, and so she called her SS caseworker to let her know we were going to be late. The lady told her that was ok, that she was helping someone else at the moment and was running behind herself. I was dreading driving downtown that day-I hated the traffic, one-way streets, and trying to find a metered parking spot. I had planned on dropping Mother off at the front of the building, and then cruising around until I found a parking space. Meanwhile, my stepdad, who was a vending route driver for Coca-Cola, was supposed to be at his account in the Journal Record building, directly across the street from the Murrah Building. Instead, he chose to take care of his routes on the north side of OKC before heading downtown. He too, was waiting for the morning traffic to die down.

At 9:02 a.m., on that beautiful, cloudless morning, just before leaving the house, we heard what sounded like a huge rumble of thunder, and our windows shook (for reference: we lived 20 miles from the blast). I looked outside, to see if there were any clouds, but there was nothing to be seen. We had the t.v. on, and suddenly there was a breaking news report that there had been an explosion (we thought natural gas at the time) at the Murrah Building. Mom and I were flabbergasted-we should have been there. My dad, at the time of the blast, was on a payphone with his boss. First, through the phone, and then through the air, he heard the explosion. When he found out on the radio that it was the Murrah Bldg., he was panic stricken, thinking that my mother and I were hurt, of course, we thought he was in the Journal Record building and that he could be injured as well. The phones lines were all tied up, so we couldn't reach each other. My dad finally raced home just in case we were there, or if my brother (who was home sick) knew when we had left. It was with a great relief that we found that we were all ok. However, one of my dad's co-worker's was not so lucky. His wife, a nurse, rushed to the scene to be of assistance. While searching for survivors in the rubble, a piece of concrete fell from above, and struck her in the head, killing her. She left behind four children. My mother's caseworker was also killed.

168 innocent people, including several children in a daycare center, would perish that day. Those who survived carry the physical, mental, and emotional scars to this day. Some sought retribution through the trial, conviction, and execution of Timothy McVeigh. Others sought more peaceful means of resolution. Neither way is right nor wrong.

I am so proud of how my fellow Oklahomans handled themselves in the wake of this enormous tragedy, and I continue to hold that pride ten years later. Everyday I am reminded of that strength and resiliance as I gaze out my office window that overlooks the memorial where the building once stood. I see the "Survivor's Tree", which has become a symbol for us all that even in the face of death, life goes on.

Please take a moment of your time today to remember those lives lost, and send up a prayer, wish, chant, whatever-for those left behind. Thanks.

3 comments:

Sara said...

Oh, Nat . .

This brought tears to my eyes. Coming from Texas, it hit close to home for me, even though I lived here in Nevada at the time. I remember what I felt like that day, what I ate for lunch, and how I couldn't peel myself away from the news in hopes they would find more people alive.

Thanks for sharing your story. I will think of you today.

suzinalexa said...

So sad. Makes me wonder about the "grand plan" thing though. Why none of you were there and why others were.

Great post.

Angie said...

I am originally from KS and MO. My dad is an attorney. I watched this entire thing unfold on TV...in absolute stunned silence. I cried when my dad walked through the door for lunch that day. I cannot even imagine being anywhere near. Congrats on the move to FL....I currently live near Tallahassee. My folks and brother in the Tampa area.