I remember April 19, 1995. I remember where I was when I heard that the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, had been bombed, resulting in the deaths of 168 innocent people and injuries to nearly 700 more. I was stunned. Finding out that it was a domestic terrorist act was even more of a shock.
I remember so many thoughts and emotions during those initial days; one morning about a week later, words came and I wrote them down. I never gave it a title, just the date:
From the soil of hate and vengeance
sprang an evil unforgiving,
Which sowed acts of pure maleficence
And death among the living.
It was in the hearts of cowards
that this wicked plan was hatched;
The result of their conspiracy
was tragedy, unmatched.
Broken lives and broken bodies,
broken spirits there abound
And for those who lost their loved ones,
broken hearts are all they’ve found.
In the midst of this disaster
stand the hearts and hands that mend:
Easing pain, allaying suffering,
bringing comfort and a friend.
It is through the tears of empathy
that we see beyond despair
And stand resolute and strengthened
by the faith that bonds us there.
If we think there’s more to living
than this brief time here on Earth –
If we look on death as not as much an end
as a rebirth,
Then the hope that’s deep within us
gives us peace and springs anew –
And we’re blessed with understanding
what it is we’re here to do.
Fast forward six years, to the horror of four coordinated attacks on September 11, 2001, claiming 2,977 victims and injuring several thousands more Everyone knows what happened that day and how our country changed as a result of it.
Again, I was stirred by words that came to mind, and I revisited the 1995 piece.
From the soil of hate and vengeance spawned an evil unforgiving
Deep within the hearts of cowards it was hatched,
Manifest in purest malice, sowing death among the living –
A conspiracy of tragedy unmatched.
Broken hearts and broken bodies, broken spirits, broken lives
Heroes fallen, image burned into our minds –
Though grief and sorrow haunt us, human dignity survives,
What was rubble now becomes the act that binds.
In the middle of disaster, dust and ashes, twisted steel
We have empathy to see beyond despair,
Forgetting for a moment how detached we used to feel —
Standing strengthened by the faith that joins us there.
If we know there’s more to living than this brief time here on Earth
Then within us hope and peace will spring anew
If we look on death as not as much an end as a rebirth –
Then we’ll understand what we are here to do.
I remember trying to explain to my young sons about what happened; of course, there was no way to explain ‘why.’ I’m sure most, if not all, parents found it difficult. You want to comfort your children and make them know they’re safe. You want to keep the bogeyman and nightmares away — but sometimes, you can’t.
Number Young Son, six at the time, was frightened when he’d hear an airplane near our home. There is a small private airstrip nearby, and we see and hear small planes on a regular basis. It took a long time to convince him that planes weren’t going to crash into our house. I remember Number One Son being very angry about it and wanting to hurt the bad men who hurt the people in those airplanes and buildings.
Time has eased the memory, as it is wont to do, but the utter shock of that day still rings in my ears. Personally, it brings back memories I don’t want to entertain. I pray we never experience that kind of a day again.