Monday, June 23, 2014

Remembering and Teaching So We Don't Forget

This past weekend my daughter played in a softball tournament in Oklahoma City. One of my favorite things is to go with my kids and watch them play sports, so I had looked forward to the weekend for a long time. We looked at her tournament schedule and noticed that we had a lot of free time each day and Tatum asked me what I wanted to do.
I told her that the only thing I really wanted to do was to go to the bombing site. This request was met with some indifference but as the father of two teenagers I have become immune to teenage indifference. I really didn’t put anymore thought into it and we packed the car and left on our big adventure. That night the team decided to go to Bricktown for supper and during the meal the conversation among parents and coaches turned to how to fill the free time.
I again mentioned that I would like to visit the bombing site. One of the coaches said that evening about dusk was the best time to go to it. When we finished our dinner, we asked the restaurant staff how far it was to the site. We were told that it was three blocks over and three blocks down, an easy walk. I am here to tell you that it is not three blocks over and three blocks down, it might be six but not three.  In any case, it made for a long walk (especially for most of the girls because they were wearing flip flops, but that is a subject for another day) giving us a lot of time to talk.
The adults in our group were talking about where we were that day and other memories of what happened. Through all of this I noticed the girls again looked somewhat bored and really quite indifferent, most of them only wanted to return to the motel and swim. I suppose I should have expected that response but I was still a little stunned by their disinterest. I mentioned that to a couple of my fellow parents and that was when we realized that none of them had even been born, the bombing had happened four years earlier. Then with more quizzing we realized that this event in history was not something they had learned about in school.
With this knowledge we started to tell them about the event, the circumstances, Timothy McVey and Terry Nichols and other facts surrounding the bombing. Suddenly they started to gather more interest, they started to understand. Then we reached the site and walked in through the entrance and the whole group of chatty teenage girls grew quiet and the real reason we, adults, wanted to come to this place seemed to sink in with the girls.
If you have never been to the memorial, I highly recommend going. The first thing you see are the entrance ways with the time stamp 9:01 on one and 9:03 on the other, they represent the time before and the time after the bombing. Then you see the reflecting pool, on our night it was perfectly calm and quiet. However, the part of the memorial that drew the most attention was the chairs. Each victim has a chair and they are arranged by which floor that victim was on, along with the five chairs representing those killed outside the building.
Quickly one of the girls noticed the smaller chairs on the second row. We explained that they represented the children killed in the second floor daycare center. After a moment of complete silence, the question of why would anyone blow up a building with children in it was asked. None of us had a good answer, other than the obvious one that hatred and evil make no sense. The truth is that there is no good explanation for what happened that day.
At that moment I think the girls understood why the adults were so interested in walking halfway through Oklahoma City to spend time in that particular spot. Bad things, horrible events happen, there are no two ways around that, however, it is important that we remember that they did happen and that each of us walk away with the understanding of what was lost that day. We need to make it our goal to make our part of the world better in memory of each of the victims. I am not sure, but I believe that each of those girls left that spot grateful that we shared it with them and why understanding events of the past are so important.

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