In our zeal to get to the next ‘big’ thing, we leave behind many pivotal events for history to examine.
It’s sad that some events are gone from memory even ones where Americans died. We had one this week: the 17th Anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing.
I know that there were some ceremonies and it was a big deal to some people; notably families of the victims. But overall, the anniversary barely made the day’s news cycle. The death of Dick Clark overshadowed many stories including OKC. In earlier anniversaries, there would be coverage and more coverage of the ceremonies and the event.
We need to remember………………………..
My experience with April 19, 1995 began that next month. We went to OKC to visit relatives and took the opportunity to go downtown to see the carnage. I had read that the MurrahFederalBuilding was to be demolished the next Tuesday; it was Saturday morning when we went to see it.
It looked just like the newspaper pictures and the television images. We could only get so close, but I could feel the death and pain.
The concrete was piled up at the bottom of the giant hole in the building. There were electric wires and all sorts of plumbing exposed. The building was correctly condemned. I took pictures and still have them somewhere. We watched on television Tuesday when the building came down. Then, the talk of the memorial began……………..
Since the OKC Memorial has been done, I have visited it twice. Both times during the day and there is something special happening at that site. It is solemn and calming and appropriate all at the same time. There is a museum which educates against violence and bigotry. The memorial itself is incredible.
There is a reflecting pool and a monument with the time of the bombing (9:02 a.m.) etched in it. But the moving part is the 168 chairs which represent each victim. There are some for the adults and a smaller size for the children that died that day. It brings tears to your eyes just thinking about it.
There are other symbols of the bombing that people left in the days following the disaster which the commission chose to leave. One person wrote almost a manifesto on the side of another building. I don’t remember the exact words, but they are appropriate and make you think. The fence were people left memorials was still there the last time I visited.
We have a local connection to the bombing in Cindy Campbell Brown. She is one of the victims of the attack. Brown, in the Secret Service, was in her office in the building when the Ryder Truck pulled up to the front of the structure. She was on the phone reordering pictures of her recent wedding when the bomb went off. She was a graduate of ShermanHigh School.
In 2002, I learned of her story. I did a five part story on that seventh anniversary. I had only been a reporter for a year. I was so moved by her story that I promised to never forget. Every year, Cindy’s best friend, that friend’s mother and I meet at 9:02 a.m. at her grave to honor her memory. This week, we did it for the 11th time in a row. They have only missed the first two anniversaries as they were in OKC those days for the official ceremony.
As I did research for my initial story, I discovered a caring individual who planned to work with children. During college, she even worked in juvenile probation. She impressed so many people including a Secret Service agent handling a local case. He told her to apply in the next round of SS hiring because she was just the type of person they were looking for. She got in on her first try. Her plan was to develop a youth component for the Secret Service, which would do more than just protect them.
Beyond her career, I was impressed by Cindy’s passion for life and her belief that goals were worthy of the effort. She had a great sense of humor and her father said that she was the best daughter ever. Cindy cared about people and wasn’t afraid to go the extra mile to help them. I was saddened to realize we had lost such an individual to an insane act. I still am.
In the intervening years, Cindy’s father, Gary Campbell, who still lived in Sherman, dedicated his life to helping the other victims’ families. He was instrumental in providing help to the families of Sept. 11 after that attack. He made several trips to New York to comfort and relate to those families. New Yorkers think fondly of him and sent their condolences when he died just before last year’s OKC anniversary.
Gary Campbell remembered Cindy, not only because she was his daughter, but also because it is the right thing to do. When a tragedy happens, it is only right that we make sure it doesn’t happen again; and that we comfort those who need it in the meantime.
Events such as OKC and 9/11 are horrendous and we should never forget the lives taken on those days. People like Cindy Campbell Brown should never be forgotten….and I will always remember.