I took a walk this afternoon at lunchtime here in downtown Oklahoma City.

Oklahoma City National Memorial

I have not been to ground zero in New York City, but I would guess the feeling here in Oklahoma City eleven years after the McVeigh bombing of the Alfred R Murrah Federal Building is quite a bit different. I actually work now in a building just 2 blocks away from the national memorial, where I took these pictures.

Oklahoma City National Memorial

I just had my camera phone with me today, so the quality of these images is not as good as I’d like. I will go back sometime soon with a better camera. It is hard to know what to write about all the things being there makes me think of. I need some more time to compose my ideas.

There are events in each person’s life that are national or international in scope and gravity, so most people who were alive at that time can tell you what they were doing at that very moment. For my parents’ generation, some of those events included the launch of Sputnik in 1957, the assassination of President Kennedy in 1963, and the Apollo moon landing in 1969. For me, the events included the launch of the Space Shuttle Columbia in 1981, the Challenger disaster in 1986, the destruction of the Branch Davidian complex in Waco in 1993, the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and the 9-11 attack on the twin towers in 2001.

In 1981 I was a fifth grade student at Warden Carden elementary school in Columbus, Mississippi, watching a television in the cafeteria with all my classmates as Columbia launched into a gloriously blue Florida sky.

In 1986 I was a sophomore high school student sitting in World History class at Manhattan High School, in Manhattan, Kansas. I remember sitting next to Scott Travis, my partner in a research group about the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, when we first heard the news that Challenger had exploded.

In 1993 I was working out at the US embassy gym in Mexico City, Mexico when the fiery images of the Branch Davidian complex were first shown to the world on CNN.

In April of 1995 when the Oklahoma City federal building was blown up, I was working for the Lubbock Independent School district as a teacher-aide (while I worked on my Texas teacher certification) and was at Coronado High School.

In September of 2001, I was a new employee in the Texas Tech College of Education in Lubbock, when I watched with others the horrific images of aircraft crashing into the World Trade Center.

Being at ground zero here in Oklahoma City, the feeling is more of wonder and bewilderment rather than anger at people from another country who attacked my own, as I would guess it might be in NYC. I remember that McVeigh was in the US Army, stationed for awhile at Fort Riley, Kansas, near the town where I grew up (Manhattan). I remember that his accomplice, Terry Nichols, rented the Ryder van used for the bombing in Salina, Kansas, about two hours away from Manhattan. I remember that McVeigh was put to death for his crime. I look out at the chairs that represent the people who lived and worked in this city, in this place, and died as innocent victims here. I wonder what caused a young person like McVeigh to grow so alienated, so hateful, so bitter that he would strike out in that way against his country and his countrymen? I am saddened, I am confused, I am reflective, and I am respectful for the dead and for the families they left behind.

May they rest in peace, and may their families take comfort in Him who can bestow the solace, grace and peace desperately needed by suffering people unsure of the reasons for and motives behind the actions which led to the tragedy in which they found themselves just eleven years ago– a memory very much still alive in this city in the heartland of America.

You can view the rest my images from today in this Flickr photo set.

In addition to visiting the National Memorial’s website online, the English Wikipedia entry is informative and worth reading.

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