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Remembering: OKC Memorial


My mistake on the flubbed post this morning. Ruth Casie will be on the ranch at a later time. In the meantime, I’d like to share with you what the day means to Oklahoma (and I’m sure many Americans around the country). Today is a somber day of Remembrance and Memorializing.

Seventeen years ago today I was living in a mobile home park in Modesto, California enjoying my three young daughters, 5, 8, 10, and basically loving life-even though I was perpetually homesick for my home state of Oklahoma. More specifically, I was walking across the street to our house from my best friend’s but she called me back. We had been in California for six years and I wanted to ‘go home’ since the day we left to move west with just two kids in ’88. It was not to be. Not for 18 1/2 years was I able to come back to the tornado-ridden state I love. So why, in eighteen years, did April 19th, 1995 stand out? 9:01 am that morning was the last moment of serene peace in my home state. 9:03 am began the moment of recovery. It’s that minute between I’m talking about.

“At 9:02, on April 19, 1995, Gulf War vet, Timothy McVeigh detonated 4,800 lbs of fertilizer and fuel oil. The resulting blast destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal government Building and killed 168 people. The bombing, largest act of domestic terrorism, in America, shattered pre-911 America’s innocence.” ~

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At 9:02 am, April 19, 1995 168 lives were snuffed out, including 3 unborn babies and 19 small children. Mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, grandmothers, grandfathers, brothers, sisters, cousins… Dead because of a man (I use the term very loosely) named Timothy McVeigh. I give that person no credit for anything other than death and destruction; of this mayhem, pain, suffering, loss and subsequent confusion. He was anti-government to put it simply. He’d considered many other targets, one here or there- but I guess he decided to kill 168 innocent rather than just one. It made a bigger statement…I suppose he figured. He drove a Ryder moving van up to the back of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building and walked away, leaving the bomb to do its damage. Why? Because he was a sick cowardly bastard. He never completely revealed his reasons for murdering so many innocent people. Oh, he gave ‘reasons’, excuses, in the six years following- before dying unceremoniously by lethal injection June 11, 2001  (which was too good for the … words fail…if you ask me!).

You think I’m being harsh? What, judgmental? No. I’m being honest in my opinion after sadly holding onto a bumper sticker that every American should own proudly with this image on it.

I’m angry and I, like so many, feel invaded!

We writers are famous for glorifying various types of heroes. Cowboys, Military, Law enforcement, First Responders, even unhuman heroes.

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But this particular picture is why I write about Firemen. Really and seriously. If you wonder why I write what I do, well for these specific heroes, this is my answer… That’s not to say the police aren’t as much the heroes. It was two police officers who found Baylee and one rushed her to the man in this photo. And in the OKC bombing it was all manner of first responders- the firemen- who braved the fire and damage, the chaos, to search for even a spark of life. One even lost his life during the days following this atrocity. And, yes, this image really was made into a bumper sticker to represent courage and survival, but mostly the innocent, in times of adversity. Yes, I really do still have my sticker tucked away so I will never forget (not that any Oklahoman is ever likely to forget) what that day did, or more aptly- what it DIDN’T do to us.

OKC Fire Capt. Chris Fields’s image is my reason. (in 2005 Chris was a Major and acting battalion chief for OKC fire dept) It seems to always be in the back of my mind. My inspiration to write about the good guys. The baby? She ded just after this picture was taken. Her name was Miss Baylee Almon.  She’d turned one year old the day before this picture was taken. Yesterday Baylee would have turned 18. But seventeen years later none of this is diminished or forgotten. I sat watching the Memorial this morning and crying for what might have been for those 168 who didn’t go home at the end of that very long day. That is what is real.

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How old would those other 18, under-six-yr-old, babies be today? What of the other 145 loved ones taken, robbed from their families too soon…and for what?  They are all missed and mourned today. Not one more or less than another. If you are in or near OKC the museum is offering free admission today only (this does not include the Memorial which is always free). Maybe you want to take a seedling of the Survivor Tree elm to plant in your little corner of the world. Click the link to read the tree’s incredible story. Yes, it too is a survivor of that fateful day. The Oklahoma City National Memorial, located on NW. Fifth Street between Harvey and Robinson, is open 24 hours daily. Admission is free.

I try to put a positive turn on everything and I think seeing the loved ones of those lost participating in the Memorial today is that this time. As the children’s names were read two mallard drakes flew in to walk the length of the reflecting pool and frolic in the shallow water. I know those 18 babies would have loved to see them. It seemed fitting.