Sunday, April 19, 2015

Oklahoma Bombing 20th Anniversary

Today, April 19, is the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Like most things, it seems like it just happened yesterday, A total of  168 people died at the hands of Timothy McVee. Twenty-one children were in the building’s day care that day and only six made it out alive. Today, all of the victims  are being remembered: children, sisters, brothers, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers.

What we honor today is the resilience of those kids who are now in their 20's. They say they appreciate the little things they have. Some are in college looking towards a good future. Some injuries will never go away like one student who suffers breathing problems and suffered burns over his entire body from the explosion. Another student is an astrology major and hopes to run a hotel one day.

I was in Oklahoma City years after this tragic event speaking to a national Compassionate Friends Conference of bereaved parents and walked over to the must-see memorial that has been built. As you approach the building, a rod iron fence surrounding the building has hundreds of memorials continuously put there from children's drawings and pictures of those who died to flowers, poems and other writings from all the visitors. The inside of the building depicts minute by minute leading up to the explosion, and then the rescue of survivors through photos, film footage and interviews. One can view the iconic picture of the fireman holding a baby covered with blood from the nursery and his tearful expression as he looks at the child who died, as well as other emotional pictures. The sounds of the police and fire engines are always in the background as you make your way through the maze of information that has been put together. They city has done an excellent, realistic job of showing this tragedy.

But the most outstanding memorial is next to this building. For every person who died, an iron chair has been built in a grassy area, 168 of them, surrounded by a water feature. Each chair has a plaque displayed on the front of the chair with that person's name. You can even go in the evening to see this beautiful, moving display, since under every chair there is a light that shines in the evening. It is a stunning, peaceful and beautiful memorial to honor all those brave souls.

As you enter or leave the complex, the following sign on the wall catches your attention:

     We come here to remember those who were killed,
     Those who survived and those changed forever.
     May all who leave here know the impact of violence.
     May this memorial offer comfort, strength,
         peace, hope and serenity.

I will never forget the impact this entire memorial area had on me. Never forget what happened here, it is saying, and pray it will never happen again.

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