Sixteen Years Today...

I had just finished taking my charges to their respective schools and was sitting at the dining room table enjoying a cup of coffee when my mom called and told me to turn on the TV. I asked why and she said that there had been a gas line explosion in downtown Oklahoma City. I immediately flipped on the TV and saw the carnage and told her "Mom, I've got to go." she asked where? "Out to the American Red Cross, they're going to need help", and hung up. I knew this was not a gas explosion but something more sinister. I jumped into my van and rushed out to North Base at Max Westheimer Field to the American Red Cross headquarters, went in and said "I'm here to help, just tell me what to do!" I was one of the first there.

They put me to work setting up the reclining chairs for blood donations. Then I started setting up chairs and tables for the other workers who were on their way. People started pouring in almost immediately to give blood. The decision was made to take only those people that had O positive or O negative blood since it was a universal blood and asked those who had come to give, with A or B, blood types, to come back the next day. The parking lot was full and overflowing, the line of people wrapped itself around the building and stretched down the street.

Food vendors from all over the city sent huge chests of hot food, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, hot chicken sandwiches, doughnuts and it kept coming all day. One young man had filled his pickup with bottled water and brought it and said to me "Here, you may need this for all the folks standing out in the sun. Other vendors brought ice chests full of just ice. Grocery stores sent orange juice, coffee, sodas and cookies. People would randomly drop by and put money into our hands and would say "Put it to good use" we would try to give them a receipt and they would just shake their heads "No" and drive off.

In the afternoon I moved to the refreshment recovery area and made coffee, passed out cookies and sodas. Kept track of the timer for those who had given blood, all the while watching what was going on, on the TV. Such horror, we were shell shocked to say the least. We learned it was a bombing and that many lives were lost including many children, the most innocent of all. We were all traumatized by it. And to think we would relive it again in 2001 on September 11th.

I had to leave to go pick up the kids from school as I operated a before and after school program in my home. After picking up the children, I fixed their snacks, sat the older ones down in the dinning room and had them do their homework to keep their minds occupied. I put on cartoons for the little ones and took my daughters aside and said "Don't mention this to the little ones as they may not know about it, I want their parents to explain this to them." My own girls were distraught as they had friends who lost their parents in the bombing or had a parent who was suppose to have been at the Federal building that day but had been running late. They looked at me and asked "Why?" I could only say "I don't know why, but now we must be ever vigilant against evil people who would want to hurt us."

Later that evening our family watch stories of the rescues and the thunderstorm that moved in on Oklahoma City. We saw firemen, police, rescue squads, nurses, doctors, dog handlers with search and rescue dogs all trying to rescue those still trapped. Blocks upon blocks of the city had been destroyed. Yet there was no looting. It became known as the "Oklahoma City Standard" to the major network broadcasters. The community pulled together and stayed together. People and companies donated their time, energy and anything that would help.

The next day I took the children to school and went out and spent another day at the American Red Cross Headquarters helping in any way I could. That day I gave blood. The line was just as long as the day before, but people and business gave of themselves, the donations did not slack off.

I was proud of my community and the giving spirit. I saw that spirit again several years later on May 3rd, 1999 when an F5 tornado ripped through Bridge Creek and Moore, OK killing 44 people and destroying over 300 homes.

We Oklahomans have a spirit, a spirit of "When things get tough the tough get going."

God Bless Oklahoma, God Bless America...

1 comment:

  1. Very moving post, Susie. You are a remarkable, giving woman.


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