Three things stand out as I watched CNN in horror fifteen years ago today sitting with other moms on blue leatherette couches facing the room length picture window of an indoor tennis facility in Fairfield County Connecticut while my seven year old son was volleying in his beginner class on the other side of the glass.
1) The first thoughts racing across my screaming mind blamed a foreign, rogue nation lashing out at America's riches, ideals and freedoms.
2) In a flash, a nano-moment, our country lost whatever innocence regained over the fifty years since the end of World War II destabilizing our confidence.
3) The other shoe would surely drop. The world, my world, shaken by its roots indelibly altering the facade and ripping at its core.
A terrorist attack on American soil. Not an American territory. Not where we had interests. Piercing the heart of our country. Our values. Our pioneer sensibilities. A yellow Ryder truck, the one we use to move belongings from from our family homes to our first apartments, explosively detonating at that very moment when office workers placed steaming mugs of coffee on their desks to open the morning email. *BLAM* The entire front side of the glass and steel office building sheared off. *ZIP* In one quick motion as if it were the rind of a tangerine.
Wrong. Right. Right.
It would be six years until #1 was correct. An eye for an eye. Vengeance from these ordinarily passive, polite church going people. Dead man walking. June 11, 2001. The country watched in disgust. Oklahoma in vindication. Timothy McVeigh gazed diabolically at the camera perched above the gurney in the death chamber in Colorado where his executioners tightened the wrist and ankle straps and he glared directly into our souls haunting. Three months to the day later our worst fears realized.
A whacko revenging Waco. Undermining our complacency. The Murrah Building and the white brick YMCA across the street ripped apart by the seams. Inners exposed. Shrapnel, body parts, office furnishings, children's shoes and teddy bears buried in rubble. 168 innocents perished. Hundreds more injured. This city of nearly one million wounded gravely. The vulnerabilities of our nation exposed. Beirut comes to the heartland.
Oklahoma City. Known previously to me as a faster-than-fast drive-through. Jesus Christ Superstar blaring on the eight track. Orion's belt dimming in the pre-dawn sky. A cross-country college excursion. Once the cow town a pit-stop on the old Mother Road. Route 66 long since replaced by six lane I-40. Oil derricks silhouetted in the dark purple sky. Nary a tree in sight. One year after the bombing Charlie and I left our own shattered world in the rarefied northeast to resettle and reclaim our souls in the cross-roads of America.
So it is with a deep respect for my former neighbors on the edge of the prairie in the buckle of the Bible belt that I raise my glass in memoriam of that fateful day when the sky came tumbling down.
To the remarkable rebirth of that former dusty cowboy town into the booming metropolis that it has become ... and to its promising future held firmly in place by the strong moral fiber from which it is woven. Salut!