Sunday, April 19, 2015

Our Most Personal Memorial

Today is a day of sorrow. Twenty years ago today, a conspiracy using common elements such as fertilizer, gasoline and a truck led to untold grief and devastation. The bombing of the Murrah Federal Building occurred right up I35 from where I write this. Twenty years ago sounds like a lifetime, but it also seems like the blink of an eye. One hundred thirty six souls were given up to heaven that day, many of them children in a ground level daycare center. I can't fathom the type of selfish, deranged evil that perpetrates this kind of crime. We've seen worse since this date, but normal people no matter what their politics are all baffled by what drives someone into seeing humans as points on a scorecard.

That being said, the Oklahoma City Memorial in terms of its setting, its scope locally, nationally and historically, is probably one of the most well defined and poignant memorials in our nation. We have countless memorials that encompass large Neo-Classical structures that might speak in terms of history, but that do not touch us emotionally. Who doesn't understand the story of an empty chair? The 168 empty chairs are chairs left vacant at Thanksgiving dinners, weddings, graduations and all the other family celebrations that get little national acclaim but which resonate on a ground level with the majority of us.

As I understand it, every year the families return to leave flowers, photos and toys for fathers who will never come home from work, children who will never grow up, wives that will never hug their children again. While no such absence ever truly heals, the memorial has created a type of community where their memories transcend the limitations that seem to so divide us these days. Why is it that we can only pull together in a crisis? When I watch these now grown children lay wreaths for fathers who have gone away and babies that will always be young I hope they can find a way to change this toxicity in our society. I'm not sure what it will take, but for the moment watching these families share their moments provides a bittersweet backdrop to what we have become.

Oklahoma City 20 Years Later