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Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Oklahoma City Remembered

I mostly remember seeing a little boy, a streak of blood down his dark cheek, being carried to safety by a fireman who I once wrote “could play Santa Claus for the local grade school” in a poem for a creative writing class.

It was 11 years ago today that Timothy McVeigh blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. That’s 11 years. Not any special anniversary like 10 or 15. In fact, when I recently read about the upcoming anniversary, I had assumed it was being mentioned because it was the 10th. When I learned otherwise, I almost didn’t write this post. There probably wouldn’t be much attention paid to the bombing, I thought.

Then I realized that’s exactly why it was worth writing about. It was the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil at the time. It’s still the worst domestic terrorist attack. For many it was the first time our eyes were open to the fact that our very lives were in play for people willing to kill to make a political point. For most, the worst part was learning that 19 children in a daycare center in the building were among the168 killed.

My mom’s best friend had just recently had a son, and I was just starting to realize how amazing kids can be. The way they look at you when they’re just starting to grasp the world is inexplicably amazing. Their innocence shows us the way things are supposed to be — unspoiled, unconcerned with race, unafraid of people with disabilities, interested a world they’re just meeting, concerned with little more than how far away mom and dad are, and maybe where their next hug will come from.

I remember finding it impossible to live with having dropped your kid off one morning only to have him or her taken away in one of the cruelest possible ways. For nothing more than some demented person needing to be heard, 19 kids never had their first day of school, first little league game, first dance recital, and the lifetime of “firsts” they all deserved.

It’s still something I can’t imagine, and I don’t have kids. As today passes with little note of those 19 children, we should all find it impossible to forget.

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