25 years. The level of evil displayed that day still makes no damn sense to me! It was a Wednesday. I was a junior at McAlester High School. Everything about the morning was ordinary. I was excited about the birthday party we were having for our youth minister at church that night. In my 1st hour class I listened to Mr. Horne continue to prepare us for the AP U.S. History test that was a few short weeks away. In 2nd hour I took a chemistry test that my friend Ben and I had been preparing for all week. I finished it confidently and quickly, and after turning it in I went back to reviewing for other classes. When the last person finished their exam Dr. Harrison addressed the class. I still remember the look of confused horror on her face as she said something had happened that she could not explain and she turned on the T.V. in class. Watching the horror play out on a T.V. screen in a town 2.5 hours away from Oklahoma City is how the rest of the day was spent. That non-stop T.V. watching bled over into the next day and the next as well.
I will never forget the feelings from that day. It was not the first time in my life I faced tragedy. As a second grader I, along with my classmates, watched the Challenger Shuttle explode shortly after takeoff. Our Middle School years we saw the birth of the school news program – Channel One – specifically to bring us news from the front lines of Desert Storm. Some of our very own coaches, teachers, and family members were serving in the U.S. military and there fighting in the Middle East. Just two years earlier – to the day – as freshman, we watched the siege on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. On a personal level I had dealt with the death of my grandmother during high school. So, tragedy was not an altogether foreign concept to me or my friends that day.
It was not the horror and the tragedy alone that made the day so memorable. It was something else. As we continued to watch the news we saw horror turn to heroism and hope. We saw the best of everyone arise in this time. We witnessed the worldwide debut of what is now known as the Oklahoma Standard. As Garth Brooks so eloquently sings in The Change – “It’s not the world that I am changing. I do this so this world will know. That it will not change me”. This is the ethos that was on full display in the aftermath of the OKC bombing.
This is the ethos and spirit we need again. Yes, we need it to support everyone worldwide and come through this current pandemic in the best possible place. However, we need this Oklahoma Standard to mark our daily actions and conversations for a much deeper reason. We need it to overcome the political and cultural divide that is driving us apart and letting hate grow all around. It was hate such as this that resulted in the bombing 25 years ago. We need to pay close attention to the rhetoric all around us and put a full stop to any sign of growing discord that could lead to a point similar to what took place 25 years ago. We need to show the world the Oklahoma Standard and use it now to prevent tragedy instead of recovering from one. I leave you with the closing of Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address:
“I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”