It’s Marathon Monday again, but instead of talking about mileage and recipes, I’d like to tell you what race I’m running soon and why.
In nineteen days, thousands of people will gather in downtown Oklahoma City to run different events for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. People run for so many private reasons, but everyone runs this race both to remember history and to keep hope alive.
On April 19, 1995, the physical and emotional landscape of Oklahoma changed forever. A building was bombed; 168 innocent lives were lost and 680 more people were injured; and the lives of thousands of workers and first responders were changed forever. History was altered with the worst act of domestic terrorism yet in our country and ever in our state.
Everyone here has a story about that day. Where we were when it happened or when we heard the news. Who we knew that might have been downtown that day. Who was hurt. Who was lost. Even if you lived outside of Oklahoma at that time, you probably have details of that day seared into your memory. The images are indelible. Every single one of our stories is worth telling and remembering, and I hope you find ways to keep yours alive.
I was barely 21 years old, still living at home with my sweet parents and four younger siblings. We lived just a few miles north of downtown. I was just a few months pregnant with my first baby. When the bomb exploded I was leaning against the outside brick of my childhood home, feeding the dogs. The house shook. It shook hard, and the boom was unlike anything I’d ever heard. I remember feeling it in my ears and wondering what it could possibly be. The dogs were upset, but the morning was bright and warm and I was on a schedule. I drove on to my bank job which was even closer to downtown, and soon the reports started pouring in. The glass panes of the bank’s drive-through teller windows had shattered. The phone lines were down (remember that cell phones were rare then). No one knew exactly what had happened, but we all knew it was horrible. The sounds of emergency vehicles were a constant the rest of the day. We continued our work, sort of on auto pilot, sifting through scant news reports as we could. I didn’t know it yet, but my future parents in law were driving into the thick smoke ready to do anything that was needed.
My story pales quickly. All of my loved ones were safe. I was horrified but preserved. My story gradually braided into Oklahoma’s story, and over time we all became steeped in appreciation for the people who carried us from those shadows of evil to the brighter, calmer days of hope.
The story of hope and how it has flowered out of so much evil is a long one, and it could be told from thousands of different perspectives. Most people agree that Oklahoma showed her true colors in those weeks and in the years since, that we rose to the occasion and allowed light to drive our darkness as much as possible.
Of all the beautiful ways to tell the story of hope, I am honored to have the chance to tell it from the perspective of my father in law, Harvey Wreath. He and my mother in law, Judy, were both law enforcement officers at the time. Immediately after the bombing, they were summoned to help, and they did. They never flinched; they just went. And their lives were never the same after that.
Over the years I have heard lots of stories from Handsome’s parents about the weeks they worked at the bombing site and about their changed years since. The view into their servants’ hearts has lent me a deep respect for these people who also happened to raise an incredible husband for me. Recently, though, Harvey agreed to sit quietly and talk with me at length about his experience as a first responder to the bombing. We plan to talk more as well as visit the Memorial Museum together. The fruit of this intimate labor has been wonderful. I hope you’ll stay tuned for his interviews, stories, and photos.
I am definitely running this race for them.
Until Next Week
While Harvey and I continue to delve into memory and meaning, you are invited to share your own story here. Whether you are from Oklahoma or somewhere else in this beautiful world, your story is important. Where were you? What were you doing? How did you hear the awful news that spring day nineteen years ago? Would you like to memorialize anyone? Do you have any questions?
Then in the coming couple of weeks, please check back here to read Harvey’s story and get a dose of Oklahoma pride and love for our first responders.
Thanks for visiting, friends.
Be gentle with each other and remember that
only light drives out darkness.