Where were you on April 19, 1995?
I was in the office of my junior high school. It was our second period, and I was an eighth-grade office assistant. I ran errands for the principal and secretary, delivering notes, relaying messages. Our school secretary, Martha Herman, received a call a little after 9 a.m. from a class that was on a field trip in downtown Oklahoma City. The teacher said that there had been an explosion downtown, but that he and the students were okay.
This was before the Internet was available on cell phones, before Facebook and Twitter, before email was widely used as a communication tool between friends and family. Not too many minutes later, word came via breaking news that the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City had been the target of a large bomb. There were 168 casualties. Hundreds were injured. Thousands’ lives were forever changed. The Oklahoma landscape was forever changed.
Later that month, the bus carrying my class on a school field trip to Oklahoma City drove by the bombing site. National news platforms were still set up. There was yellow police “caution” tape rimming hundreds of feet. And the makeshift memorial of notes, flowers and stuffed animals had taken over the chain-link fence that separated the crime scene from the public. It was surreal then, and 20 years later, visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, the events of April 19, 1995, are still surreal, as unbelievable as ever. The photos taken of the carnage and aftermath of the bombing are still difficult to view. It’s hard to believe that evil could strike our state in such a swift and powerful manner.
But good came from the bad. The Oklahoma Standard was born. The state’s reputation for standing behind its citizens in a time of tragedy was put on an international stage. It has been seen many times since in the aftermath of natural disaster and tragedy. Oklahomans stick together. Despite our differences, true Oklahomans take care of each other.
To celebrate this commitment to others, the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum has launched the Oklahoma Standard, an initiative to empower the state’s residents to commit one act of service, one act of honor and one act of kindness during the month of April.
Just like my parents will always recall where they were when JFK was assassinated, and my grandparents remembered the moment they found out that Pearl Harbor was attacked, I will always remember sitting in the office of Bristow Junior High and learning about an explosion in the state’s capital. On this 20th anniversary, remember the tragedy. Remember the lost lives. Remember the triumph over evil.