Sunday, April 19, 2015

Remembering Oklahoma City

My girls and me in Oklahoma City in April 1995
20 years ago, in January 1995, I moved to Oklahoma City.  In March, I started working at Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Oklahoma City, and on April 19th, the Murrah Federal Building was bombed.  My life was changed forever. 

I hadn't wanted to move to Oklahoma City. I was hoping we'd get stationed in San Antonio, after being overseas for 3 years and then going to school in Lubbock. I was homesick for family. 

This duty station came right smack in the middle of our 9 moves in 11 years military adventure, but it turned out to be the only place that became home to me. I honestly think it was the bombing, the city's response, the shared experience, the people I met and the heartbreak that bonded me to Oklahoma City. Remember, this was before 9-11, and we were still so naive about how vulnerable we were and devastated we could be. It was the most shocking thing that had ever happened in my short, sheltered life. 

I was standing in the living room of my babysitter's house when I first heard that there was a daycare center on the second floor of the building. I'd already seen the smoke on my drive past downtown, and the pictures of the aftermath of the front of the building on the television.  My babysitter was crying, tears just streaming down her face. My daughter Lacey, not yet 2 years old, was struggling for me to put her down so she could run away and play, but I just couldn't let her go. 

Eventually, I went to work, but all my appointments had been canceled by my boss, so I wandered home where I stared at the TV some more. I'm not exactly sure when we knew that 15 little ones from the day care had been killed, but I'll never forget the picture of the firefighter carrying one away from the building. As a young mother myself, I struggled to fathom the horror of it. 

As the days went by, we all coped in different ways. One of the Little Sisters on our waiting list at Big Brothers Big Sisters had lost her mother in the bombing so we matched her up with another Little Sister who was matched in the program and they shared a Big Sister for while, for support and healing. Everyone was volunteering for the Red Cross in some form. This was the time that I really started to understand the critical roles that non profits play in times of crisis. Not having experienced much crisis in my life, unlike most of my clients, this was a time of tremendous personal growth and maturity for me. 

While I had to be forced to move to Oklahoma City, 3 years later I had to be dragged away, figuratively kicking and screaming, to the next military posting in Virginia. So today, on the 20th anniversary of the bombing, I will remember the confusion, the disbelief, the horror, the grief, the fear, the sadness and the helplessness, but I will also remember the strength, the courage, the spirit, the resolve, the fortitude and the heroism of the people of Oklahoma City, my only other home away from home. 

This is a link to the Memorial.  

Here are a few of my memories from the OKC years and all the dear friends I made. 

The annual BBBS Gala with Jenny, Jennifer and Kendra
My awesome BBBS boss, Laurie

With Kendra and Jennifer at some BBBS event
Karaoke with Leslie (Ragan)
Me and the Trekkie Bowl For Kids Sake teams
Happy Hour probably at Bricktown
With Laurie and Mark Clayborne, National Big Brother of the Year and his Little
Jennifer, Mark and me
Party at Denise's!

That time we were in the newspaper in costume


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