Monday, April 19, 2010

15 years ago...

15 years ago I lived in Dallas Texas…in Irving, actually.  I worked at an advertising agency and had just learned how to drive a car.

I was 22 years old (Lawd, have mercy) and had just started to stretch my wings post college.  I was a young 22…totally absorbed with trying to get a promotion at my first “real job” and still dazzled by the feeling of independence I got out of having responsibilities. 

I was years away from feeling weighed down and stressed the hell out by those same responsibilities.

15 years ago today I woke up at dawn…put on the oh so corporate suit-based uniform we used to have to wear back…drove to work and began my routine.

By 8:30am I was already pulling media reports and sending deadline reminders.

By 8:45am I was already up on some serious work gossip from the day before…I think it was a Tuesday.

15 years ago…no, it was a Wednesday…I walked to the office vending machine area and purchased a honey bun.

It was 9am.

I walked back to my office…checked the reports that were churning out of the old as hell printer we used…returned to my desk and settled down to enjoy my honey bun.

Then there was a shout, followed by rapid voices, sharp sentences…an intense conversation happened just far enough away from me that I couldn’t make out what was being said, just that it was emotional as hell.

Was it 9:30am? 

10am already?

I can’t remember…I didn’t look at the clock on my computer, just pushed back from my desk and went to look around the corner.

What time was it?

It couldn’t have been 10am yet.

My co-worker was throwing things into her bag…her phone was off the hook and someone was shouting her name on the other end…she shoved by me and took off at a run.

Her supervisor ran after her.

I looked around for someone to ask what the hell was going on.

I remember all that, but not what time it was.

Someone whispered that there had been an accident in Oklahoma City…and the co-worker who had taken off was from there, had tons of family who worked downtown and had received a call from her mother that something very bad happened.

We all began the now familiar office ritual of tragedy…someone turned on CNN, other television sets went to local news…and the rest of the day was spent learning rumors and then the shocking facts.

We later learned that my co-workers family was not harmed...

...and that the tragedy was no accident. 

15 years ago, when I was 22 years old and working at my first job post college, Americans attacked America.

Domestic terrorists murdered 168 people at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

And I think now, as I thought back then, about the people and children who began that Wednesday like they began every other day…about the pre-work routine, the pause for gossip, the emails sent to kick off the day and then maybe a dash to the vending machines.

Then I think of the horror that I cannot comprehend…the chaos I know only from what television crews captured from a distance and those pictures I can still see when I close my eyes…the confusion and fear and dust and rubble and that desperate search for survivors.

And then the slow…oh, it was slow as honey straight out of the fridge…that slow roll-out of who, what, when and we already knew where.

Not foreign, but domestic.

Children killed not due to miscalculation but rather indifference.

The deadliest domestic terrorist act in this nation’s history...

…happened 15 years ago today.

It was a Wednesday.


A.Smith said...

I can still remember watching television and seeing those little kids... I'll never forget the little kids.

When Andrew Joseph Stack flew a plane into an IRS building in Austin, TX I was horrified. But even moreso, I was horrified at how "ok" Americans were about that.

I have a cousin who works for the IRS and she very well could've been in that IRS building that day. That shit bothers me. I don't care how much you hate government, these are PEOPLE you're killing (or threatening to kill) with families and no matter how many you kill, government will still exist.

President Clinton has pointed out that the political rhetoric in this country is a lot like it was in 1995 when Americans attacked Americans. So when (and yes, I say when, not if, though I pray I'm wrong as hell) another home grown terrorist attack occurs, we will all know exactly who to blame and I hope President Clinton says "I told you so."

Sowilo said...

Really wonderful piece here. I love the juxtaposition of the ordinary and the extraordinary.

Anonymous said...

You know what I remember? How quickly media tried to pin the attack on Middle Easterners. I remember saying, this has to be an American and no one believed me. Then it came out that is was Americans. No matter who did it, it is insanity. Sadder still is that all over the world people are attacking and killing each other.

J said...

..another reason to always say "I love you" and to never say "Goodbye". Always, "I will see you later."

My Gramps taught me that.

My thoughts and prayers are with those families today.

peachesc said...

this hits close to home because im from okc(still live here) and was very familiar w/ the murrah building. my family credit union was there (federal employees credit union on the 3rd floor). i used to go there all the time w/ my mom, my kapa, and my aunt almost every week if not every 2 weeks. i remember just about everything in deatil about the 3rd flor, from the yarn artwork right outside the elevator to the water fountain where i lost my tooth. so many memories about that place. the tellers were always friendly, whenever they would see me, they would give me a sucker. we knew these people and they knew us. all of a sudden that changed the morning of 4/19/95. i was @ home (sick w/ pnemonia), while my mom was getting ready to go to work. my kapa was @ home watching me planning on going down there later on in the week. next thing you know, there was this loud BOOM that shook the house ( i lived less than 10 min away @ that time). we all thought someone hit a transformer. it was like a sonic boom. a few seconds later a news report came on channel 4 saying it was the courthouse across the street. a few seconds later, they mentioned the murrah building. i yelled @ my mom that it was our credit union. the feeling that came over us is something that is hard to describe. esp knowing that just that monday i was there around that same time. on that same street. when you could look up and see the lil happy faces and hand prints that were on the window of the day care. i asked my mom that last time i was there if i could go up there, and she told me next time. only to know that lil kids BABIES lost there lives over some jackass who hated our government and considered the loss of the babies lives as 'collateral damage' (from the branch davidian attack 2 yrs earlier). a few days later, my family went back down there to view the building 1st hand. the smell of death is something that will stick w/ you. still does to this day. becuase of this incident, i don't take like for granted. because you never know when it will be the last.

i finally managed to go to the natl. memorial museum 2 yrs ago, its an overwhelming feeling, but it is necsessary to see. to gain an understanding on how no matter how hard you try to hit us we(as oklahomans and as a country) will bounce back stronger than ever.

sorry for a long post, i just remember it like it was not that long ago. im 22 now and it still hits me.

Anonymous said...

I remember what I learned that day. 26 or 27 years old, sheltered life, pregnant with my one and only child: I learned that people in real life don't die like they do in the movies. Intact, pretty, whole. Like a punch to the chest, horror: what do they mean by Dumbass me, what did I think a bomb would do to a human body. Innocence lost. Oh those kids, those babies. Has anyone forgotten the photo of the fireman holding the child? And the families.

Unknown said...

I remember the name so well because it’s the same name as my former High School. I remember saying this looks just like Beirut. A tragic bombing and today there are reminiscences of it with the Tea Baggers. White people are crazy as HELL! They are always trying to justify and redefine their “wrongness”. I’m just sick of them!

Shark-Fu said...

Tisk followed by task, Arneader... "white people" don't deserve to be defined by 18% of the population (less, if you go by the folks at rallies) anymore than anyone deserves to be defined by some among them. But I agree that I see too many similarities in the rhetoric and violent imagery of this new movement with what we saw leading up to April 19, 1995.

dinthebeast said...

On 4/19/95 I was driving a yellow 20 foot bobtail truck doing home delivery of furniture and appliances. I found out about the bombing when I had a pick up at the Alameda Naval Air Station's "Navy Exchange" store late in the afternoon. It took quite a bit of convincing of some really nervous looking security folks to gain admission to the base. They wouldn't say what was up, but when I finally got into the store they had the news coverage on the TVs. When I heard them say "truck bomb" the security made sense. After that day, we were never allowed to use the loading dock there because they changed the policy for non-military freight carriers at the base. So besides the horrific damage to the victims and those who cared for them, terrorism does a lot of little damage to commerce and regular people's lives for years and years. I'm just one guy. I can only imagine that there are millions of others all having a few extra hoops to jump through as they go about their business, all trusting each other a little less... It got a lot worse after 9-11, but I could really see a difference after OKC as well.

-Doug in Oakland

Saudia said...

I'm impressed with your commentary - It is real and as much as I remember where I was & what I was doing at the time of the horrific American-on-American Kids attack, I will remember this post as one of your best! [You didn't curse either that was spectacular & this is coming from a woman who can cuss like a sailor ]. Great piece.

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