I attended the University of Oklahoma starting in the fall of 1994. April 19th 1995 was just a regular Wednesday morning. I had an 830 speech class. At 9:04 the worst act of domestic terror occurred at the Murrah Federal Building. I didn’t hear the noise as many of my friends who were outside, I didn’t feel the shake, although my friends did, I didn’t even know anything had occurred until I walked into one of the coffee bars on campus. I was just going to grab a breakfast bagel and wait before my next class was to start. All of the students were gathered around a small TV up in the corner of the small restaurant. We were a mere 30 minutes to ground zero of this attack- the Alfred P Murray Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. We watched for a little while as the horrific events of what is now known and “the bombing” unfolded. I clearly remember the fear as Timothy McVeigh’s picture (or a drawing of him) was posted on the TV because he was not in custody. You all know the story- the beautiful building with a glass front and a day care center at the very center in front of the building. A coward drives up a yellow Ryder truck loaded with anhydrous Ammonia and proceeds to a getaway car (without license plates) while terror ensues.
Why is it that the initial shock gives way to a fear and wondering of what will happen next (is this it or is there more to come?). To this day, I do not like to be anywhere close to a yellow Ryder truck. The day continued with the entire campus in a state of shock and numbness due to the insult. We walked around shaking our heads, speechless, unable to concentrate on anything else. Fast forward to the evening, Campus Crusade weekly meeting was that night. We met early to pray for the evening. We met on the 8th floor of a building on campus with very large windows and a 360 degree view of campus. On clear days you can see almost to “The City” as anyone from Oklahoma calls it. That night was different, it was dark, ominous, one of those April storms that Oklahoma is famous for. Real tornado weather- it gets a dark orangey color about 5 or 6 as the cool air collides with the warm air. It was dark by now and a full-fledged thunder storm was on the rise. Looking out those windows lightening was visible and lit those terrible clouds as the rumbled, rolled, and churned in the night sky. It was almost as if the devil himself was laughing at the havoc he had caused. Practically this storm slowed down the relief effort but it was their symbolic nature that stood out to me. The devil had one this battle. Due to the magnitude of this disaster recovery was not easy of anyone. Were there people trapped? Were there people in the rubble that could not be located? What now, now that it was raining? The search was called off for that night because it was treacherous to attempt to reach victims or injured that still could have remained in the rubble. We prayed in our room upstairs, earnestly we prayed for survivors, for the relief workers, for the city, the state, and the nation. We prayed that evil would not triumph and we begged God to allow their to be other’s to be found alive- that they would be recovered and soon.
This is the picture of the century- the tenderness of sweet Baylee who died shortly later.
I had to go see for myself what the pictures on the news were showing. The next evening a girlfriend and I drove to downtown OKC just to look, just to see it for ourselves. It was just that building that was destroyed the Methodist Church beside it was also heavily damaged. It was a rather quiet ride- what could you so to an insult so great that ultimately 168 people were murdered and 19- yes 19 of them were children. You see, the building was mostly windows with the day care positioned in the very front of the building on the second floor. All were innocents but the children! What could ever come of such a tragedy? We continued to pray and weeks passed. We started to learn why this man felt like he needed to make a statement and attack his own people. The site was searched and cleared for days and days on end until they were not able to go any further. Something special happened during this time, a fence was set up to block off the site from onlookers and those that gathered to see the building. This fence became a special part of Oklahoma history to this day. Everyone wanted to visit “the fence”, to leave their mark of love, encouragement, teddy bears for the children. It demonstrated community, resilience, and honored those that died. People came from far and wide to leave their mark at the fence. To this day it remains imbedded in my mind and part of it is in the museum that exists at the bombing site. I too left many a race number from the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon on that fence.
So many things have happened this week. Boston Bombings, West’s Plant Explosion, Gary’s (our senior pastor’s eye removal) surgery today, and the anniversary of the bombing tomorrow none are a surprise to our Father. I sit here on the couch and show Lexi the pictures of West, some pictures from the bombing and the fence that adds hope. I tell her these stories and where I was when this occurred. I do not want her to fear tomorrow but I do want her to know that when the world falls in, when all else has failed, our Father is present. We talked about where our treasure was and what we treasure. As she says, “If this house burned down we would just find a builder and fix it- it’s ok, it is just stuff”. So often my treasure is here and now and it can so quickly be taken from us. The message of all trials (for a Christ-follower) is to grow more like Him every day. We have hope because our treasure lies elsewhere.
One tree survived the blast that was on the complex, it is now called the Survivor’s tree. It is a symbol of home that evil will never and can never conquer good. For where our treasure is- there our heart will be also…..
Stay tuned for the rest of Ronnie and Shana’s story tomorrow and how “Mile Marker” got its name (it goes all the way back to the bombing).
Our only constant is our hope for our heavenly home.