On April 19, 1995, at 9:02 am, the life of every Oklahoman—past, present, and future—dramatically changed. 168 people lost their lives, including 19 children, to the Oklahoma City bombing at the Murrah Building in downtown OKC. Families and friends lost loved ones, and whether you knew someone personally or not, you still felt the pain and anguish of that awful morning.
I was just a couple of months away from turning seven years old when tragedy struck. As the events of the day unfolded, my dad sat me down and began to explain to me what had happened. At the time, I had very little understanding, and even to this day, it’s hard for me to wrap my brain around the whole thing.
Many people consider that day the beginning of what Oklahoma City is today. At the time, downtown OKC was nothing special, and Oklahoma itself was not exactly a particularly desirable location to outsiders. But as the city that I call home was torn apart that day, I have seen it rebuild over the last couple of decades, and it’s been an incredible process.
I remember watching the new buildings go up over the years, and as businesses moved in and the population grew, one thing has seemingly never changed: the Oklahoma way.
To me, being an Oklahoman is more than just being “from Oklahoma.” The Oklahoma way is something I have not just seen unfold from a distance, but it is something I have experienced first hand. On May 3, 1999, my life was changed as my house was wrecked by one of the most dangerous tornadoes of all time. My family and I lost everything, but it was friends, family, and even strangers who banded together to help us recover. It was the Oklahoma way.
In May of 2013, I saw friends lose their homes to another one of the deadliest tornado outbreaks in history. I was able to play a part in helping people recover, just as I had once been helped. It was the Oklahoma way.
To many outsiders, Oklahoma City is known for just a few things: the 1995 bombing, tornadoes, and a basketball team. Typically, the basketball team is the biggest one of the three, but for me, that team is just a result of the Oklahoma way. Through tragedy and loss, Oklahomans have continually come together over the decades to recover and rebuild stronger than ever.
I find it fitting that, while April 19, 1995, was Oklahoma City on perhaps its worst day, today, as the Thunder is set to take the court for Game 3 of the first round of the playoffs, is a symbol of Oklahoma City at its best.
On this day, 24 years after 168 people lost their physical lives, let us remember that life is bigger than basketball, and Oklahoma City and Oklahoma as a state has a way of life that is much, much larger than sports.