Whenever someone asks, “Where were you on 9/11?” it’s not hard to instantly remember planes crashing into the World Trade Towers on a beautiful sunny morning in New York. But do you remember where you were on 4/19?
For Oklahomans, April 19 is a day to remember our own terrorist attack. An attack conspired by unhappy Americans who killed an innocent 168 lives, including 19 children. That day is forever etched in my memory because Oklahoma City is my home and I personally knew some of the victims.
Just like 9/11, that April morning was beautiful. The sun was out and I was busy getting my 3-year-old and 9-month-old ready for a day at Mother’s Day Out. The phone rang and it was my sister who lived in Texas. She called just to chat when I heard something that sounded like thunder. How odd, I thought. There’s no clouds. After hanging up the phone, I continued my routine of packing a diaper bag and a lunch for my toddlers. I heard the noise of the television beginning to say something about an emergency downtown. Apparently a bomb had gone off. Not realizing the extent of what had happened, I quickly rushed out the door to begin my day of EWC–errands without children!
It didn’t take long to realize something was tragically wrong. The news was spreading quickly. Rumors of other bombs were making their way through the airways of radio and television. I found myself at a local mall that was deserted and quickly shut down. Our city was under attack. Our lives were changed.
For many Oklahomans, the next few days were ones filled with great sorrow and great heroism. As the day unfolded and I held my own babies, I sat in front of the television, praying for the parents who were frantically looking for signs of life of their own. I saw people being carried away from the building, their clothes stained with blood and a look of horror on their faces that I had never seen. This was personal. These were my people.
It didn’t hit me until hours later when I began to put together the pieces of those who were inside the Murrah Building. The Federal Employees Credit Union was housed there. Because I had worked for a credit union and worked closely with other credit unions, I knew many of the employees. One was a high school friend, Valerie Koelsch. She was the marketing director–the same position I had at the credit union where I had worked prior to having my children. We began our careers together and spent two years as roommates during marketing training in St. Louis. Valerie was instantly gone. As I sat at her funeral, I realized the heartbreak and wondered if I had shared Christ with her. Because of her Catholic background, we had a quiet understanding of our religious differences. But those were not important now. I questioned if I had been bold enough to share how my personal relationship with Christ was way more important than our religion.
I also realized that one of our Sunday School teachers from church had died. Mickey Maroney was a secret service agent. He had protected presidents and dignitaries for more than 20 years. I loved hearing him talk about the Kennedys and especially Lady Bird Johnson. The day following the bombing, I received a call from church. Would I write the eulogy that would be delivered at Mickey’s funeral? It seemed too much. But as I gathered information about his life, I realized the number of lives he touched and the impact he made on so many. He is greatly missed.
There are others as well. No matter who you talk to in our fair city, most of them had a connection with one of those who are no longer living. That’s kind of the way Oklahoma is. We love our people and we all seem to be linked in one way or another. It’s one of the great assets of our state. Not just because we seem to know everyone, but because we understand people are our greatest commodity.
I think God feels the same way. While He created incredible mountains and oceans, His great accomplishment and final touch on creation was man. God understood the need for relationship. He designed us to bring Him glory. He fashioned us to have intelligence, to have emotions and to have a soul.
Today I will remember those who were affected by 4/19. I will remember the families whose lives were forever changed. I will remember the heroes who ran into the building to save those who could be saved. Will we run to those who need eternal hope?