Tuesday, April 19, 2005
Ten years ago right now . . .
I was in a panic.
I worked at a law firm in Tulsa, OK, while waiting to start law school at OU. My father, who has worked for the federal government for twenty years or so, was on an out of town trip.
Then I heard, on the radio, that there was a horrific explosion at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. I knew of the building -- I had taken the civil service exam in a room that was (as I later learned) mere yards from the Ryder truck. I parked in this parking lot:
I panicked, because I knew Dad often worked in the Oklahoma City federal offices. It took me nearly an hour to track him down and confirm he was okay. Thankfully, he had been in Bartlesville, OK, that morning.
Unfortunately, many others had been at their desks in Oklahoma City that morning. Their lives would change forever.
Over the next week, we sat glued to the television, watching rescue efforts, learning that there were not going to be a lot of survivors pulled from the rubble. We saw Timothy McVeigh charged in Perry, and led from the courthouse in a bright orange jumpsuit. I remember wondering whether someone would gun him down before he could be tried.
We heard, on Nightline, from those who suggested that somehow the federal government was responsible for the bombing. Some conspiracy theorists said that the federal government had brought down its own building; others said it was Arab extremists; still more (including those in the Michigan "militia", said that it was a natural, though regrettable, response to federal excesses at Waco and Ruby Ridge.
That weekend, President Clinton and other dignitaries visited Oklahoma City for a memorial service. The service was standing room only. Clinton's visit did much to marginalize the extremists (along with Ted Koppel and Nightline's decision to allow these folks to air their ideas).
I had the opportunity shortly afterwards to visit the site. I had a speech to give in Lawton, OK, and stopped by the area on Sunday. It was, even 11 days after the attack, a surreal scene. The front of the building, sheared off when the lower support columns were blown out, was gone. It looked almost like a David Macaulay book. Peering through binoculars, I could see desks, complete with computers, a vase of (now-wilted) flowers, and a large family picture sitting inches from the drop to the ground below.
In the coming years, at OU, i encountered many folks who had been at or near the site. I worked at a law firm two blocks away. One of the partners told me how, that morning, he sat as his desk and watched the rubber-lined windows of his 15th floor office push in nearly an inch from the blast pressure, then pop back out so loudly he thought they would surely break.
I met the courier who had just dropped off a parcel at the Murrah building and literally saw the explosion in his rear-view mirror.
I met the guy whose girlfriend had died in the blast. And, through the media, got to know many others whose lives were irrevocably changed that morning.
I'll never forget that. I hope my country never forgets them, either.
oooooooooohhhhhhhhhhhhh it must have been terrible to be amidst the tragedy. I had a witnessed similair situation recently here in Chennai- India when the tsunami stuck the coast hardly a few kilo meters away from where we live. I lived those moments again when I went through ur postPost a Comment