Some events in life are so substantial that they leave a big hash mark on our personal timelines. They make it clear that there was a time “before” and a time “after.”
For most of us, those events are things like a high school graduation, marriage, the birth of child – or a tragedy, like the death of someone dear to us or an unimaginable event like the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.
If you could see my timeline, the bombing hash mark would be in bold, a clear division between feeling secure and understanding that terrible things really can happen, even to good people.
Who would have imagined that Oklahoma would be a target for terrorism? My home state isn’t huge or heavily populated, unless you count the cattle. We don’t have enough electoral votes to bother anyone. And we’re pretty well mannered. We still hold the door open for each other and pull over to the side of the road when a funeral procession passes to show our respect.
But 17 years ago today, we learned that we, too, are vulnerable. At 9:01 a.m., life was normal. By 9:03 a.m., my world had forever changed.
Since then, I’ve seen the Twin Towers fall. I’ve watched earthquakes shake entire countries, and I’ve witnessed a powerful tsunami, miners pulled from rubble and students running from gunmen.
Sometimes I’d like to rub my eyes and start over – go back to the time before my April 19th hash mark. But then I remember the strength and the goodness I have seen in others who have chosen to be brave and compassionate in the most difficult of times.
Rescue workers flooded Oklahoma and worked around the clock, giving us all they possibly could. Restaurants delivered free food to the site. Families and college students scoured their closets for raincoats, blankets and flashlights – and anything else the rescuers needed.
And I’ll never forget the First United Methodist Church, which sits next door to the Murrah property. The church, which had been used as a makeshift morgue in the hours after the bombing, hung signs where its beautiful stained glass windows had once been: “Our God reigns & we will remain.”
Vulnerable, yes. Defeated, no.