18 years ago.
Such vivid memories of that day. I was 8 and a half months pregnant. Another woman in my office was expecting as well, and our coworkers hosted a joint baby shower for us that day. We were busy at work all morning, and then drove over at lunch for the party. For some reason, I didn’t listen to the radio on the way, but some people did, and that’s how we found out. Word spread like wildfire throughout the guests at the shower. Surrounded by the hope and excitement of new life, but faced with the devastation and grief of loss only three hours north on I-35.
News was sketchy at first, but it was very quickly evident that it was no ordinary act of terrorism. The daycare in the Murrah Building made this attack even more horrifying. The victims were true innocents. It was inconceivable that someone could do this. 168 people, children and adults, were killed that day, hundreds more injured.
My manager begged me not to watch the news coverage, for fear that it would be too much for me to handle, that it might send me into early labor. And so I avoided it, something that I am sure I would not be able to do today, in this age of twitter and instant news accessible on the radio, on TV, and delivered to the palms of our hands. I heard the stories, but I didn’t see the video until years later, when on the 10th anniversary of the bombing I finally brought myself to watch. The passing of the years did not make the footage any easier to bear.
I first saw the memorial, with the 168 chairs in a field of grass, next to the reflecting pool, across from the Survivor Tree, when I ran the marathon for the first time in 2010. So many chairs. So many little chairs. That day was a test of will and determination for me, as I was injured before I even started the race, having fallen over a fence trying to get into the corrals. But what kept me going that day was thinking of those chairs. And the lives that they represent.
This has been a horrible week in so many ways. Senseless attacks at the finish line at the most revered marathon in the country, a tragic explosion in small-town Texas, events that alone would shatter our peace and our sense of security. But coming within days of each other, days apart from the anniversary of the Oklahoma City killings, I think instead, these attacks and tragedies ultimately end up bringing us closer, strengthening our resolve, uniting us across Texas and across the country. It’s how we work.
18 years ago, after we left that baby shower, emotionally drained from confronting the fear and devastation wrought from the act of terrorism, my coworker went home, then went to the hospital and gave birth to her daughter. One month later, my son was born.
Out of darkness comes light and hope.
Oklahoma City. 9-11. Boston. West, Texas. Next week, I Run to Remember.