Thursday, 19 April 2007

"Shades of Gray" - Robert Earl Keen, 1997

As regular Lord Celery readers know, I use song titles as the titles of my blog entries. The song titles relate to the subject matter of the individual posting. Today, it's not the title itself which is important; it's the entire song which relates to today's anniversary.

The 19th of April 1995, 12 years ago today, the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City was bombed by home-grown American terrorists. Robert Earl Keen's song "Shades of Gray", released two years later on his CD "Picnic", tells the story of some less-than-upstanding young men who were at first thought to be involved in the bombing. But they weren't. They were, as Keen describes them, just some "sorry kids". John and I had listened to the song many times before he suddenly realized what the song was actually about.

The Murrah Building bombing was one of those "I remember where I was when..." moments in my life. I was sitting at my desk in downtown Houston, with CNN running all day on a small television on the credenza behind me. I remember the first reports of some kind of explosion being heard in downtown Oklahoma City. I also remember, even more strongly, seeing the first live images (from a local news helicopter) of the Murrah Building with its entire front half blown away. I remember feeling stunned...and physically sick.

One of my lifelong friends, Charlotte, and her husband Jim were living just outside Oklahoma City at the time. I also remember feeling so relieved to hear from her that they were both safe and all right..although they certainly knew many people whose lives will never be the same again after that day.

Although I'm an Okie, I was born in Tulsa and lived there only until I was about 12 years old. I have really never known Oklahoma City very well. As a kid, my only visit was to go to a Western theme park called Frontier City. As an adult, I made several trips there to attend oil industry functions or meetings. I have always remembered, with a smile, that there are working oil wells on the grounds of the Oklahoma state capitol there. But I feel that I know and understand the people of Oklahoma City. They are mostly decent, nice, God-fearing, hardworking, law-abiding honest folks. OKC is one of the quintessential Midwest American cities. Horrible terrorist events aren't supposed to happen in places like that.

During John's first and only (so far) visit to Oklahoma in the fall of 2002, a few months before I moved from Houston to England, we went to the museum and memorial to the Murrah Building bombing in downtown OKC. It was an exceptionally moving experience. I am so glad that we had the opportunity to go.

Let's all spend a few moments today remembering those who died in and around the Murrah Building 12 years ago today...and the families and friends who still grieve for all of the victims of that terrible event.



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