“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news,
my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will
always find people who are helping.’”
Last month was the 25th Anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing. Our collective hearts still ache for the 168 victims, their families, and the 500+ injured that day. Much like the 9/11 terrorist attack, I’m sure you remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you first heard the news. I grew up in the OKC metro area, and I recall that moment for myself.
I was a young kid in a classroom at the time. We all felt a small but noticeable vibration. Our teacher shrugged her shoulders and suggested it might have been an earthquake. A few hours later, administrators were going classroom to classroom asking if anyone’s parents worked downtown. My father worked in a tall building, but luckily not one situated downtown. At some point, our teacher left the classroom. I would learn later that the force of the blast had broken her husband’s downtown office window and glass flew inward, injuring him severely. He thankfully survived.
That afternoon, I stood in our kitchen with my mother watching the small black and white Magnavox television as the screen panned from floor-to-floor of the Murrah Building. I was mesmerized by the firemen and other rescue workers climbing the piles of rubble. My parents took us later to look at the building (at a distance) before it was imploded. I’ll never forget the image.
For some reason – I’m honestly not sure why -, I was chosen along with some other children to participate in a television show a week or two after the bombing. It aired on a local OKC TV network and a bunch of kids sat around in a circle with a psychologist, a couple firemen, and a TV anchor and the kids were given an opportunity to drill them with questions. I was one of the oldest. When it was my turn, my question was “What is the President doing to stop these terrorist attacks from happening?”
If you’ve seen recently or remember any of the footage of that day, you’ll find one instance after another of strangers helping each other. Adults running with injured children in their arms. People holding gauze to the wounds of those standing next to them. Stretchers being carried by both paramedics and business workers in suits. Victims transported to hospitals in the beds of pickup trucks. People helping others in extraordinary ways.
Then and Now
As we navigate the current pandemic, it seems to me that not much has changed. When we are faced with formidable crises, we rise to the occasion. We look to our leadership for answers. People are still helping each other in extraordinary ways. Healthcare workers and first responders are once again everyday superheroes that have swapped their capes for masks as they work to save lives.
Just as we all remember where we were on that day in 1995, I’m certain we will all not forget this season of life. Just as we did then, we will overcome this in every respect: medically, socially, economically… it’s the American Way.