Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Oklahoma Strong

Published in the Miami News-Record, April 19, 2015

It was 1995. I was 22. Paul and I lived in a cute little rental house with hardwood floors, a giant kitchen, and a front porch that I still miss. He was working at Eagle-Picher in Seneca. I had a home daycare. We were young, eager to start a family, and content.

As per the usual morning routine, my daycare babies had finished breakfast and Sesame Street and it was my turn to watch TV while they played in the living room floor; my favorite show at the time was Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee. It was a world without flat-screen TVs and our teensy TV didn’t even have a remote. It was a small console TV with dials. We had a folded-up piece of paper wedged in behind the bottom dial to keep it from drifting off of UHF. The antennas had wadded up balls of aluminum foil on the ends.

My usual morning’s entertainment was interrupted by an “ABC News Special Report”. I was annoyed. I only had one hour of TV to myself each day, one hour that didn’t involve singing monsters and songs about counting and sharing. Break-in special reports were rarely about anything pertinent to my little corner of the world. I sighed and got up to go fix a glass of tea, but the words “Oklahoma City” caught my attention. I can remember stopping in front of that tiny screen and feeling my heart begin to race as the newscaster spoke of preliminary reports of a bomb going off downtown. I was stunned. My stomach was in a knot. My hands were shaking. I needed to sit down yet I stood, rooted to the spot, eyes fixed on the first photos and videos rolling in.

I ran to the phone and dialed my mom at work. “Mom, you need to find a TV. Someone bombed a federal building in the City…..yes, Oklahoma City…, Mom, I don’t know who……I’m in shock…..” and then I remember asking a question she no more had the answer to than any of us did: “Why us?”

A few days after the OKC bombing (maybe the next day, I don’t remember for sure after 20 years), a house just up the block from my where my mom and my aunt and uncle lived – and only a few blocks from where we lived – exploded due to a natural gas leak. I had just set a plate of fried chicken on the table for dinner when our whole house shook and we heard the explosion. All I could think was, “Again?” The bombing of the Murrah building forever changed us, I think. No, I know.

For days after April 19, 1995, I was the victim of a profound sadness. I felt scared, confused, angry, and insecure. I cried a lot (which isn’t anything much out of the ordinary – I’m a cry-er by nature) and didn’t sleep much. Little did I know then that I’d repeat it again in the fall of 2011, some 16 years later.

I have lived in Oklahoma my whole life. Never has another state been able to claim me. I’ve lived all over Ottawa County and even did a brief stint in Stillwater before I met my husband. We Okies are often the butt of jokes about rednecks and being backwards. People from the coasts think we are toothless hillbillies that live in one giant cow field and dodge tornadoes on a daily basis, but if you’re from here you know there is so much more to us than that. Granted, there’s a few of us that live that tooth-free lifestyle, but we are so much more than a backwoods stereotype. We are ranchers, doctors, moms, dads, lawyers, laborers, writers, scientists, teachers, stay-at-home parents, secretaries, and so much more. We are Oklahoma. We are strong.

We are Oklahoma Strong. 

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