It’s hard to find the right words. But we feel your pain, shock and sadness. Deep within us.
In a little less than two weeks, people from all over Oklahoma City and the state of Oklahoma are going to gather to run the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. It’s a great race, the state’s biggest. And while competition and achievement are high on the list for those of us going, there is a higher purpose for the event: To highlight the Oklahoma City National Memorial.
In a matter of a few days, we here in Oklahoma are going to reflect on the event that gave rise to the Memorial, and later the marathon that bears its name. It was on April 19, 1995, that Timothy McVeigh exploded a huge truck bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 people — including 19 children at a second-floor daycare — and injured hundreds more.
Since that time, the Memorial and its accompanying museum and institute has had a goal of educating people about the dangers, causes and prevention of violence and terrorism here and abroad. We learned a lot about those subjects in the moments, days and years that followed 9:02 a.m. on that dark, spring day.
Our thoughts will be on that time. But they’ll also be fixed on another sad April day. April 15, 2013. The day where a celebration of athleticism, dedication and toughness that is the Boston Marathon — America’s marathon — turned into a day of bloody carnage.
Anticipation, joy, pride — all wiped away when a couple of bombs exploded near the finish line on Monday afternoon.
Terrorism. Here. Again.
I know what it looks like. Back in 1995, while working for a little suburban newspaper in Oklahoma City, I went to the Murrah Building site soon after the attack. What I saw reminded me of past bombings, overseas, in havens of war like Beirut. Friends and co-workers are still haunted by what they saw there. Oklahoma City rebuilt, but did not forget. Those who died are memorialized beautifully and the hard truths of violence, extremism and evil are kept front and center by the people who maintain the Memorial. If you ever come to Oklahoma City, it is a place you must see.
But in the here and now, we feel what you feel. The grief. The anger. The desire to do something — anything — to help. The inevitable, unanswerable questions:
Why would anyone do this? How could anyone in their right mind think it’s OK?
Who would attack runners, the nicest, most harmless tribe of folks on the planet? And the spectators who gathered to cheer them on?
How could anyone live with themselves knowing they’d killed people, innocent people, including a kid? How could they stomach the sight of themselves in the mirror knowing some of their victims won’t walk on their own two legs ever again?
McVeigh went to the death chamber as defiant as he was twisted, sanctimoniously quoting the poem “Invictus” before a lethal cocktail of drugs sent him to his eternity. It’s not worth your time trying to get into the minds of people like him, or Osama bin Laden, or all the other crazies out there who seek soft targets in cowardly attacks that have the unreasonable and unreachable goal of forwarding their ideological aims.
Truly, I cannot answer the question of why evil is allowed to persist in this world. Hell, I can’t answer any of these tough questions.
But what I can say is that the good guys will show up. In fact, many already have, tending to the injured, lining up to donate blood (in some cases, immediately after crossing the finish line), doing the police work to hunt the bastards down. And they’ll keep showing up. It’s just what they do. What most of us do.
Here in Oklahoma, we may not all be able to lend you a direct hand. But this is a place of people who pray, and there’s a lot of that going on right now on your behalf, Boston.
And you can bet that we’ll be running in your honor, too. Thousands of us. On April 28, we hit the starting line in downtown Oklahoma City, a stone’s throw away from where we lost our innocence. Yes, we’ll be running for the 168 of our own who died and the many more who were spared but inexorably scarred.
But we’re running for you guys, too. Because we know.
Take care, Boston. We’re with you.
On Twitter @RMHigh7088