What happened in Oklahoma City eighteen years ago this morning is important. Many of us may have said at one time or another “I would do anything to achieve” some cause near and dear to our hearts, but the vast majority of us wouldn't really do ANYthing. That is the difference between normal people and fanatics.
We wouldn't kill. We wouldn't blow up buildings. We wouldn't murder little children. We respect the bounds set by society, by decency, by our humanity. We would stop at SOMEthing.
This anniversary is a reminder that there are a (thankfully) few people out there, like Tim McVeigh, who are literally willing to stop at nothing to make a political point — even to the point of murdering 168 people. Even to the point of blowing up a day care center full of little children.
I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial, on the site of the Alfred P. Murrah Buliding, a couple of years ago. At right and below the fold are some photos from that visit. The eerie serenity of that field holding 168 empty chairs, including the heart-rending nineteen child-sized ones, is absolutely unforgettable. So are the gates of time standing at either end of the memorial. The east gate represents 9:01 am on the morning of April 19, 1995 and the innocence of the city and nation before the attack. The west gate is inscribed 9:03. From that moment, we were changed, forever.
The cards and letters posted on the fence outside the memorial moved me to tears, especially the ones from family members and survivors who live with the pain of their loss every single day:
“Your first Great Grandbaby is due … We are so happy and excited about this little girl coming but it breaks our hearts that you're not here. Although she will never get to meet you, she will know what a wonderful and loving, mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, and friend you were.”
“On April 19, 1995, we were in the second grade when the bomb in Oklahoma City went off. That was the first time that we learned about terrorism, about bad people, and about the hurting of innocence.”
“Another year has come and gone, oh how time flies. Since last year our family has grown by two little boys: born two days apart. You now have four adorable grandsons … I sit back and watch them play nad imagine you are here down on the ground having the time of your life with them. I sure miss you and would do anything for a hug from you.”
168 people died. For all the survivors, life changed forever at 9:02 am, 18 years ago.
Please reflect on these images on this, the anniversary of America's worst act of homegrown terrorism. For my part, as much as I believe the death penalty is not an effective crime deterrent and often flawed in its application, Tim McVeigh's willingness to “do anything” to make a political point is still a very compelling argument for capital punishment.
Tolerance is a virtue. I practice it. I preach it. But there is no place in our society for fanaticism of this sort. Unfortunately, it is still with us.
The Survivor Tree, a 90 year old American elm. The inscription reads: “The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; pir deeply rooted faith sustains us.”
Innocence gone. Just blown away.
And Jesus wept.