"I do not claim that I can tell a story as it ought to be told. I only claim to know how a story ought to be told." -Mark Twain









4.19.2010

Oklahoma City, April 19........And the Oklahoma Standard

Fifteen years ago today, on a beautiful April morning with the sun shining brightly, people in downtown Oklahoma City were just starting their day.  


  A Ryder truck, filled with explosives and fertilizer-turned-homemade-bomb pulled up and parked in front of the Murrah Federal Building.  A young man got out of the truck and ran down the alley.  At 9:02 that Ryder truck exploded.  The devastation that followed would forever change thousands of lives.  It also forever changed Oklahoma City as well as the entire state of Oklahoma. 
 
  I do not want this post to focus in any way on the perpetrator of this horrific act of violence. There is though one story that is worth sharing about the man behind this massacre.  It is a story that reaffirms to anyone that had a doubt, there is a God that watches over us, even in the worst of times. 
Timothy McVeigh was the man that jumped from the Ryder truck and sprinted down the alley.  He knew the truck was getting ready to explode and he was getting as far away as fast as he could.  He had previously parked a getaway car in an alley several blocks away.  His goal was to get to that car before the blast. In fact, he did not make it to the car before the Ryder truck exploded.  McVeigh himself said the explosion was so strong that it lifted him off his feet as he was running down the alley several blocks away in his get-away.




  He finally managed to get to his get-away car and he headed north out of Oklahoma City on I-35.  While he was headed north, all police, highway patrol and emergency workers were headed into Oklahoma City. Without a doubt McVeigh had to meet law enforcement that were headed south as McVeigh headed north on the interstate.  About 60 miles north of Oklahoma City McVeigh was stopped by a highway patrolman because his car did not have a license tag.  To begin with, it is almost unbelievable that he would be stopped on that morning.  All law enforcement had been called in to Oklahoma City and the chances of getting stopped for a vehicle violation were slim to none.  .....And here is where the story takes an unbelievable turn.  When McVeigh had parked his get away car in the alley knowing what his plans were, the car had had a license tag. The blast from the deadly bomb blew the tag off of McVeigh's car.  McVeigh gets stopped because his car did not have a tag, by a patrolman that had not made it into Oklahoma City yet to help with rescue efforts.  As Patrolman Hanger was citing McVeigh he noticed that McVeigh had a gun under his jacket.  He arrested him on the spot.  And that is how McVeigh, in the midst of unbelievable chaos, was first stopped and put into a small-town jail.  It would be a few days before all the pieces were put together linking him to the bomb.  Yet every time I think of the story of how McVeigh was caught I still get goosebumps.  That license tag did not just 'happen' to come off.  God in Heaven made sure that car lost its tag.  God in Heaven made sure Patrolman Hanger was still doing his job on the Oklahoma interstate. Yes, God was still present in Oklahoma City that day.


The devastation from that bomb was unbelievable.  Many know about the large number of people that were killed, but few realize the true ramifications from that morning:
168 People Killed
3 women were pregnant
19 Children Killed
1 Rescuer Killed (Rebecca Anderson)

 
850 People Injured
85 Rescuers Suffered Minor Injuries

 
30 Children Orphaned
219 Children Lost at Least One Parent

 
462 People Left Homeless

 
7,000 People Left Without a Workplace

 
12,384 Volunteers and Rescue Workers Participated in Rescue, Recovery and Support

The Oklahoma Restaurant Association served over 20000 meals in a 10 day period. 
The Salvation Army and American Red Cross served over 100000 meals.
Food, water, lights, rain gear, knee pads and wheelbarrows poured in for rescue workers.


In addition:
Over 300 Buildings Were Damaged or Destroyed
Glass was destroyed in 258 nearby buildings
86 cars were destroyed, with the gas tanks from those cars causing additional fires

More Than 1000 People Survived


387,000 Estimated number of people in Oklahoma City who
knew someone killed or injured in the bombing (more than
a third of the population).

 
190,000 Estimated people in Oklahoma City who attended
funerals for bombing victims (19% of the population).


 What many people do not realize is that there were 5 deaths that did not occur in the Murrah building, but in surrounding buildings and outside, because of flying glass and other debris. In addition there were over 200 people that were injured, from the other buildings or that had been outside when the bomb went off. The bomb killed and injured both adults and children. No one was safe that morning. McVeigh's intent was to kill as many government workers as possible. It is unbelievable that more were not killed.   God was present in Oklahoma City that morning.




  When Rev. Billy Graham visited Oklahoma City soon after the bombing he spoke to the citizens of OKC.  He told the citizens of Oklahoma that we could do one of two things:

Either we could become hard and embittered and angry at God, or we could let our hearts become tender and open to trust and divine faith. We Oklahomans chose the latter. 

That is why I did not want McVeigh to become the focus of this story.  I mentioned him only to show the way God worked in Oklahoma that April morning. The story of the bombing became about the people of Oklahoma.

The people of Oklahoma showed their strength, compassion, love and courage.  People in Oklahoma came in droves to help.  They lined up at blood banks and hospitals to give, they took care of the needs of the hundreds of rescue workers, they pitched in to do anything that was needed.  

McVeigh showed the world the hatred of humanity.

Oklahoma showed the world the goodness and compassion of humanity. 

In Oklahoma we call it the Oklahoma Standard.  It is reaching out to our fellow man.  It is looking beyond any lines that divide us and instead reaching across all divides.
It is doing the right thing without expecting something in return.

 It is the story of miracles.  It is the story of survivors.  It is the story of people and a state forever changed.


  It is a story worth repeating.  By learning about the Oklahoma City bombing, by learning lessons from the Oklahoma City bombing, we can help the world.

The twin gates stand on each end where the Murrah building once stood.  The East Gate represents 9:01 a.m. on April 19, and the innocence of the city before the attack. The West Gate represents 9:03 a.m., the moment we were changed forever, and the hope that came from the horror in the moments and days following the bombing.



 

The 168 chairs represent the lives taken on April 19, 1995. They stand in nine rows to represent each floor of the building, and each chair bears the name of someone killed on that floor. Nineteen smaller chairs stand for the children. The field is located on the footprint of the Murrah Building.


The Survivor Tree, an American Elm, became the symbol of a new Oklahoma City. For years, the tree had served as a place to park under to avoid the hot Oklahoma sun. On the day of the bombing, the tree caught on fire and was filled with debris.  It was almost cut down immediately after the bombing in order to retrieve evidence that was tangled within its burned branches.  Weeks later the tree began to show signs of life.  It continued to grow, thrive and survive.  It was a metaphor for what was happening in Oklahoma. Years later, it continues to stand as a living symbol of resilience. Thousands of tree saplings are given away each year from the survivor tree and are planted across the United States. God was present in Oklahoma City that morning. 


Scars still remain in Oklahoma.  Some are physical and some are psychological.  But Oklahoma City has shown what it means to conquer evil.  That evil is overcome by the character of the Oklahoma people.


If you have not visited the Oklahoma National Memorial I urge you to make that trip.  If you are from Oklahoma it is a must.  If you are traveling through Oklahoma, go out of your way to make the visit.  There is an outdoor memorial as well as an indoor museum. The museum is located in the Journal Records building that was next to the Murrah building.  One of the rooms in the Journal Records building has been left exactly as it was on April 19, 1995 at 9:02 on a sunny morning. The devastation in that room, hundreds of yards from the Murrah building is unbelievable. You feel the terror that started at 9:02 that morning.


The Memorial has an excellent web site.  It is full of virtual tours, survivor accounts and education on terrorism. I urge everyone to visit.
http://www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org/index.php

My sister, Kari Watkins, is the Executive Director of the Memorial.  Make the trip to Oklahoma City to see the Memorial.  Tell Kari you are my friend and I sent you.  She will give you the grand tour. She will fill you with insight and stories that will both break your heart and make you swell with pride at the generosity of Americans. 

The Memorial and Museum are dedicated to educating visitors about the impact of violence, informing about events surrounding the bombing, and inspiring hope and healing through lessons learned by those affected.

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.®


Pray today for the people victims, survivors, rescue workers and people of the state of Oklahoma.  Say a prayer for all victims of violence. Say a prayer for compassion.

God was in Oklahoma City that April morning.  God is still in Oklahoma City.  Thank you God. 

(some images taken from the Memorial website)

10 comments:

  1. As I read your blog this morning, the story came on TV about the bombing. KARI was there, telling about the memorial.
    Excellent, heart touching job, sisters.

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  2. Well written, Lori. Thank you for sharing.

    Smiles,
    Carol

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  3. I remember it well.
    As a NY er who lost many friends in 9/11 I know you will never forget. We can't!

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  4. I came over from another blog friend in Oklahoma. I told my hubby the other day that we needed to go and visit the Memorial. We went down there before the building was torn down and we saw the devestation. I just bawled as I looked at it. We DEFINITELY need to go back and visit the Memorial now. I know I will be bawling away again but I have heard it is just beautiful.

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  5. I remember the day well but it's hard to believe it was that long ago! It is so ironic how McVeigh was picked up. Interesting facts you shared, thanks Lori.

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  6. Hi Lori,
    I remember that day too. I was pregnant with my son and stayed home from work that day. Then the news came. I remember being so happy that they caught McViegh so soon after. That was a miracle.
    I absoutely cried today when they talked about the children who would have been teenagers now. One lady said her son would be 18 now and would have graduated HS this year. My heart breaks for their parents, and all involved.
    Thank you for this story today.
    Kelly

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  7. What a very, very beautiful post. I am glad that God is there with you. And that you are able to look around and see Him :)

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  8. You said it so well. And, I certainly remember where I was when the news came across the tv. We used to live in Enid, so OK is close to my heart too.

    Donna

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  9. Just stumbled across this post today - several months after you posted it. I live in Edmond you caught my attention immediately. Thank you for the tribute to that event. None of us will ever forget that day.

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