It was a beautiful April morning, a week before Easter. I sat at my office desk talking on the phone to my sister-in-law Barbara when I heard a loud “THUMP” and felt a slight vibration. The sound reminded me of the air conditioning unit kicking in after lying dormant during the winter months, only louder. Immediately, my co-workers high-pitched voices and hurried movement down the cubicle aisles told me something was wrong.
The day was April 19, 1995 and like many others across Oklahoma, my view of the world soon changed. I didn’t know yet that a truck bomb exploded in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in downtown Oklahoma City, obliterating the entire front of the building and producing major damage within a 16-block radius. I had not heard of the 168 deaths, including 19 children. I had no basis for imagining such a thing.
“There’s smoke coming from downtown”, someone said.
I ran outside and looked to the south. A large plume of dark smoke billowed on the horizon. Rumor spread; a gas leak caused an explosion at the YMCA. Something explainable. Something I could wrap my mind around. My co-workers and I made a few weak jokes to release the stress and hoped everyone was alright. Moments later we learned a different truth.
From the point I found out it was a truck bomb, I was different. I overloaded phone lines to friends and family. Had they heard, were they safe? My brother-in-law Ken and his sister Mary both worked a few blocks from the blast. My friend worried about her husband who had planned to go to the downtown Social Security Office in the Murrah building that morning. My husband Richard, a part-time network engineer, was scheduled to work at the downtown office of Sonic Corporation. Fortunately, all were safe but over the next several days I learned of the death of a neighbor and an old high school class mate. The list of casualties seemed endless.
Networking was Richard’s sideline work. His real job was with the Will Rogers Airport Fire Department as a fireman. For the next several days, he volunteered on his days off to help with the rescue effort. Richard witnessed devastation normally only seen in war zones. To this day, my husband and many others suffer from a mild form of PTSD.
April 19th created a paradox. The actions that day and the days that followed exposed unfounded hatred and unconditional love. It spawned fear found only in nightmares and gave birth to unimaginable courage. Countless acts of kindness overshadowed the horror playing out daily on the local news. Cars lined up at make-shift donation centers as people dropped off bottles of water, gloves, and flashlights; anything that was needed. Blood donations skyrocketed. I sold buttons that read something like “Remember April 19th” and donated the money. Everyone wanted to do something, but nothing seemed to be enough.
The intended actions of April 19th failed to materialize. Instead of a revolution against tyranny, I see an uprising in humanity. I see love, compassion and charity. Evil things will continue to happen. How we react to them is all that matters.