Thursday, April 19, 2007

Remembering

Today is the 12th anniversary of the bombing of the Murrah building in Oklahoma City. It seems like it happened such a long time ago, and yet I remember that week so vividly, it might as well be yesterday. It was quite a surreal time for me, for several reasons.

I was home that day (a Wednesday) with the flu. I would have been home that day, anyway...having just been laid off from my job at a non-profit arts organization two days earlier. They actually had called me in from being home sick to let me know that they were laying off much of the staff, since the board had failed to reach their fundraising goals for the year, and they figured a good way to make up for that would be to get rid of most of the professional staff and run the place with volunteers for a while. (Yes, it was every bit as stupid a management decision as it sounds.) I was stunned, and angry, since I had worked myself nearly to death that season to keep things going in the absence of a co-worker who had taken an extended mental health leave. (She was one of the two employees they KEPT, ironically.) I took my stunned self home and spent the next couple of days laying on the couch, too physically and emotionally miserable to do anything else.

That was Monday afternoon. On Wednesday morning I was still on the couch. (Okay, I'd been up and down a few times--critters to care for and all, but my main focus had been the couch.) I had the TV on, and I remember Regis and Kathie Lee had just started their morning babble. Suddenly the local station broke in--there'd been an explosion in Oklahoma City. No further details were yet known. Back to regular programming only briefly, and then they cut away again. There would be no return to regular programming for some time. In some ways, there'd be no return to "regular programming" ever. A certain part of our national innocence was lost that day, I think. An even bigger part was lost on 9/11, of course...but that was the first time I remember thinking "we're not really safe anywhere." Here in the middle of the country, in the middle of the week, in the middle of the morning, people in the middle of mundane tasks suddenly lost their lives in such a senseless, horrible way. People at their desks. Senior citizens stopping by the Social Security office with their grandchildren in tow. Children at daycare. Children.

Having nowhere else to be, I was free to watch the coverage pretty much nonstop for the next couple of days. And I did. I couldn't tear myself away. It was so awful, and yet I couldn't stop watching, and crying. It made the little personal pity party I'd been having seem ridiculous, of course. I'd only lost a job. I could get another job. I hadn't lost a child, a parent, a sibling, a friend, my hearing, my skin, a limb. Just a bit of innocence.

The traditional memorial in OKC on this day is 168 seconds of silence, one for each life lost that day, followed by the reading of the names. I'll do the 168 seconds of silence here.

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Rest in peace.

3 comments:

stefanie said...

I can't believe that was 12 years ago already. I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news, too... It was during my semester abroad in Scotland (so I was doing not so good with keeping up on U.S. news at all at the time), and our whole group was on a house trip to the Highlands and Orkney Islands. We were all on our charter bus, and this girl Nancy stood up in the front and said, "You guys, you guys, LISTEN! Today, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma... in the United States of America... where WE'RE FROM...!" and then proceeded to detail what she'd heard.

What's really weird is that because I wasn't home at the time (and didn't have easy access to news at all, much less US-based news), I didn't even realize how big a deal it all was until I got home a month or two later and realized people were still talking about it.

This is a very long comment. I am sorry. Anyway, I'm glad you didn't lose anyone close to you in that tragedy.

-R- said...

I found out about what happened when this overly dramatic girl in my choir class (in high school) announced there had been a tragedy in OKC and then started weeping. I thought, "Whatever, drama queen." But then when I got home from school and found out what had happened... Wow. It was just horrible and scary. I still feel bad about my initial reaction.

gorillabuns said...

i'm late to the party but wanted to add my two cents.

i was there the day after and that day happens to be my husbands birthday.