Where We Were 17 Years Ago Today….

"Jesus Wept" sculpture erected by St. Joseph's Catholic ChurchSeventeen years ago today, Chuck & I we’re living on a quiet cul-de-sac in Ft. Collins, CO.  When I say quiet, I mean, no one really spoke to you & it was very, very boring.  Colorado is an odd place to live, in that, if you “ain’t from around there”, you’re viewed with a bit of reprehension.  You’re an outsider who came in to develop & spoil the natural beauty the natives claim as their own.  God help you if you’re from California.  That’s the first thing we we’re always asked – “Did you come here from California?”  It used to irritate me until we moved & the couple that bought our house was from California.  They were just buying our house to “live in while building a more substantial home“, the woman uttered and walked around looking at it like it was her first experience moving into a home formerly inhabited by lepers.  Now I have a better understanding of how native Coloradoans felt.  In recent years, they have basically been taken over by people seeking a nice place to live with a cheaper cost of living.  But of course, what did that do?  Drive up their cost of living.  That became another peeve of mine when we lived there.  In 1993, I did not enjoy paying $4.50/gal for milk.  I know what you’re thinking!  The trails, the Rocky Mountains, skiing, whitewater rafting, DUDE ranches, for God’s sake!  You walked away from that??  Yes, yes we did.  All exorbitantly expensive hobbies to pursue.  Colorado had it’s good points & our first child, Ryder, was born there.  We were blessed with a terrific doctor and Chuck lived close to work, always a priority for him.  I had a well-paying & enjoyable job in Loveland, CO at a publishing company.  The excitement of expecting our first child was such a great time for us. Regardless of feeling unwelcome, we were happy & content.   And then we weren’t.

My mother had driven out for a visit & brought a friend to accompany her on the long drive from Enid, OK.  The day before they arrived I had been hospitalized with kidney stones.  The intense pain from them was causing contractions & I had to be on IV meds to control the pain, as well as the possibility of pre-term labor. I was in and out of the hospital for 10 days.  I would think I passed the stones & get home and realize I hadn’t & I would have to go back.  One of these realizations came to me in a bay at Sonic, sharing a meal with mom & Susan, her friend.  Holy hell, get me back to the hospital, #1 burger be damned. This put a huge wrench in our plans to shop for baby things and decorate the nursery.  I barely felt like getting up to go to the bathroom.  I felt terrible that mom had driven all the way to Colorado to share a happy time with me before I became a mom and she a grandmother.  She stayed the full time she had intended, spending time with me, both in the hospital & at home (& briefly at Sonic!) and then got up on her final morning in Ft. Collins,  said bye to Chuck & left me to wake from my Mepergan sedation.

About 9:15 I got up to lie on the couch & watch tv.  Special news reports were all over the cable and network channels & they kept showing a shell of a bombed structure that I initially assumed must be in Beirut, Lebanon or another country in the middle east, where fighting & destruction were a given nearly every day.  Then I heard the reporter say Oklahoma City. Surely not.  Must have been a terrible gas leak, I thought.  What destruction & oh, God, I’m 7 1/2 months pregnant and must endure the notion that a childcare center was hit? Firemen carrying out blood-covered toddlers?  My hormones went haywire.  The pictures were absolutely unreal to me.  This doesn’t happen in our country.  And I will be the first to admit, I thought, what militant “religious” group from overseas is responsible for this horror?  I was also struck by the fact that my mother is from Oklahoma as is a large part of my family on my dad’s side too.  See, my dad met my mom at church when he was visiting my uncle in Enid, Oklahoma, my mother’s hometown.  I have cousins galore in Oklahoma.  We’re they safe?  Especially my favorite cousin, Randy, who spent a lot of time in the city at that time?  I called my mom, who was headed back to Enid.  She had heard it on the radio but didn’t want to wake me if I was still sleeping.  Even worse, her friend, Susan, who had accompanied her on the trip had a sister who worked in the very federal building that was targeted & destroyed.  Phone lines were insanely clogged so she was unable to reach anyone to find out if her sister was at work yet that morning. (Thankfully, she was to be in late that day because of a meeting she had down the street & escaped injury or death.)  Luckily, all of my relatives escaped unscathed, though I think it was my cousin Randy who was nearby at a meeting when it happened & felt the blast.

In short, the entire thing was sickening.  An attack on our home soil that was perpetrated by one of our own.  We all get riled up and irritated at our government, or bosses, our spouses, our school administrations, etc.  but at some level, at the very core of our being, we are supposed to be raised to do what is right & not what is insane.  The notion that Mr. McVeigh knew of the day care center & referred to it as collateral damage sickens me more. It sickens me that the inevitable conspiracy theories were perpetuated & continue today.  I hate that the Oklahoma City Bombing has become the stepchild to September 11, 2001.  I’m sure a ton of people don’t even know that today is the anniversary of this horrific event.

My family moved to Little Rock, AR in January following the attack.  My mom followed in 2000.  Mom & I returned to OKC a few years ago to attend a wedding and before we headed back to Arkansas we visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial.  If you find yourself in Oklahoma City for ANY reason, please take time to stop by. And please take your children.  Even if you don’t have time to take in the museum (which we didn’t), stand in the midst of those 168 chairs & gaze into the reflecting pool, stare in awe at the gates of time, &  the survivor tree. What touched my mother & me most, however, was the statue of Jesus weeping.  It isn’t officially part of the memorial.  It was erected by St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, which was one of the first brick & mortar churches in Oklahoma City.  The church sits adjacent to the memorial & was nearly destroyed in the blast.  But it’s presence is the perfect compliment to a beautiful monument dedicated to lives needlessly lost.

Remember the families of those people tonight when you’re sitting down with yours.

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