OKC Bombing Remembered
The window in my office rattled as I heard the explosion and I immediately went outside, looking south toward the airport, thinking a plane must have crashed. Then I looked to the east and saw black smoke rising from the downtown Oklahoma City area. I ran back inside and hurriedly turned on the TV to the local news. And there it was.
First reports were sketchy and reported few casualties, but those numbers didn’t hold up for long.
I worked at the Lions Club State Office in Oklahoma City and on that day, April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh took the lives of 168 men, women and children and seriously injured hundreds more. Yes children, as he so callously attacked a building which housed a day care center for the children of the men and women who worked there and in the downtown area.
Donations from Lions Clubs all over the world began coming in and in the weeks and months following that day I busied myself with helping survivors, acting as liaison between my organization and the Red Cross. I attended meetings, visited the site, weeded through applications for assistance, dispursed funds. Even then, in my head I had not processed what had happened. I had not cried.
For almost a year, I was consumed with the aftermath and what we could do to help. Then we received a $50,000.00 donation from a club in Boston, Massachusetts, asking us to use the money to build a memorial playground in honor of the children who perished that day. I worked alongside other club members, volunteers and city workers to ready the playground for the one year anniversary. I still had not cried.
On April 19, 1996 we all gathered at the playground at Lake Hefner with some of the families of the children who fell victim one year earlier. As they unveiled the red granite stone, marking the dedication of the site to the children, I saw them; the tiny handprints engraved into the stone. Two perfect tiny handprints… and then I cried.
I cried a year’s worth of tears and felt a year’s worth of pain and anger. This man, who so brazenly acted so selfishly, so full of hate and vengeance, had taken the lives and hopes and dreams of 19 children that day. He took mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles and grandparents. He had broken the hearts of families and friends and even those who didn’t know them personally… like me.
And what did he accomplish? Nothing.
Today I still think about those tiny handprints. And today I still cry.