15 years ago today, I was not yet "the Mom". I was not yet "the Wife." I was simply a newly engaged girl, much in love with my fiance.
!5 years ago this morning, I can tell you exactly where I was . I was standing behind the front desk of the high-end hotel where I worked. I was checking-out guests and joking with the manager. It was a quiet and easy morning at work and there was a chance of my going home early. Then we heard a loud boom and every door in the hotel flew open. It sounded as if a semi truck had hit the side of the building. The manager vaulted over the desk and ran outside, only to return a moment later white-faced and shaken.
"I think a plane crashed in downtown," he said. "There's a huge plume of black smoke. God bless all those who died."
We, the front desk girls, got misty eyed at the thought of such a tragedy. A plane crash how sad that would be. Then the General Manager staggered out to where we were. He looked shaken. It was no plane crash he told us. Someone had set off a bomb downtown. The doors had flown open when the shockwave had hit us. We just stared at him, dumbfounded. This is Oklahoma City. Things like that don't happen here.
The early news reports said that the Journal Record Building had been the target. The building where my sweetheart worked. The building where my future went to the office everyday. Numb shock spread through my body. Was I widowed before I was even a wife?
One of my co-workers walked me down to the workout facility where those who were waiting on news of their loved ones were gathering. It had the large TV so that we could watch the news and wait for word. It was just after 9:30 in the morning. Within 20 minutes, the kitchen staff started bringing in comfort food for those of us waiting. The building engineer brought us a dedicated phone line. There were 5 of us huddled together. Not one of us spoke. We sat together for hours and said nothing, too horrified for words.
My love's relatives kept calling me, asking for news. I had none to give them. He had not called me, and I didn't know if he could call me. The phones were down over much of the city, and in the era pre-cell-phone, that meant no news.
After 5 1/2 hours of sitting in the gym, eating macaroni and cheese, and watching the news, at last a call came for me. It was my sweetheart's aunt. She had driven past his house and his car was in the driveway, but she had knocked and there was no answer.
I flew to his house. I flung open the door without stopping to knock and ran into the house. He was standing in the long hallway. All of the doors were shut and it was dark, but he just stood there. I knew instinctively that he had been there for a long while.
"My love," I asked, "why are you standing in the hallway?"
He looked at me with haunted eyes and replied, "There are no windows in the hallway." Flying glass, he had seen horrors created by flying glass, the hallway was safe.
He was filthy, covered with dirt, sweat and other unknown substances. I forced him to take a shower, and then I put him to bed. He looked at me with his sad eyes and began to tell me of the things he had seen that day. He vomited up the details in painful and graphic detail, and when he was done he fell immediately to sleep. It was 4:00 in the afternoon.
He will not discuss these things now, except rarely with me. There are details which I know he has forgotten. I remember them all, just as he told me. I am his memory, his witness. We have not been to the memorial museum. He doesn't want to see it, and I have his memories burned into my brain. I would never go without him, and he won't go. My sweet husband's name is on the survivor wall at the memorial downtown. We've never seen it. People make rubbings of it and give them to us. I put them away in a drawer. I am proud of the things he did that day, the heroism and the calm in the face of calamity. He was and is an amazing human being.
15 years ago today I almost lost him. A mad man with a truck and a bomb shattered the peace of our city. Some people would be bitter, but the people here are not. We have learned that tragedies can happen anywhere, that our loved ones can be gone in an instant, that tragedy is not a respecter of age or social standing. Today, we will hold our loved ones a little tighter, make sure we tell them we love them, and thank God for the gift of one more day with them.
I am one of the fortunate ones. I lost nothing that day but a little naivete. But every year this date rolls around and calls to mind all that I have and reminds me to be grateful