Monday, February 7, 2011

For Our Children

Recently my husband and I returned to Oklahoma’s Ground Zero in downtown Oklahoma City. Now it is a place of remembrance and peace, a tribute to those lost on April 19, 1995. Like the symbolic phoenix that rose from the ashes of domestic terrorism, a new building has taken the place of the first Murrah Building.

Our first visit to the Heartland's Ground Zero took place just days after the bomb tore apart 168 families. Even then, the hearts and minds of people from around the world were made manifest by the gifts, flowers, and teddy bears given to honor the victims, including 19 children lost.

My husband and I returned to bear silent witness at the site of the Oklahoma City National Memorial once it was complete. One hundred and sixty-eight chairs, never to be filled by those in whose name they were constructed, attest to the vitality and promise erased in seconds.

We visited once more in order to tour the museum adjacent to the outdoor memorial. Inside, photographs and tributes commemorate those 168 lives. Whose heart is so hard that he would not be moved by the smiling faces and untroubled expressions photographed before domestic terrorism stole them from us?

What is more moving, however, are the acts of those left behind. Police officers, fire fighters, emergency workers, and ordinary citizens bore their labor stoically. Families forsook bitterness or anger to make hurt babies strong again. Jim and Barb Denny, for example, let go of a career and sold a home to care for Brandon and Rebecca. Their lives will never be the same. Whatever ambitions they had for themselves and their children have been rewritten, and they abide in faith, grateful for each other.

The lives of the Dennys and Nguyens and McClouds and Webbers and Allens could have been stunted or broken by the events of April 19, 1995, but their children survived, and children require resilience of us. They demand courage from us. They hope to be reassured by our approach to the future. Let us hope that we can all live up to what children need.