I was startled today to realize that 18 years ago I was in Oklahoma. It was 1995 and Spring Break and my family took a trip to the Midwest to visit family. We’d spent time with my mom’s cousins in Oklahoma City, I remember swimming and jumping on the trampoline all day and watching an electrical storm roll in at night.
It was April 19th. My brother’s 12th birthday. It was also the day of the Oklahoma City Bombing.
We were in our rental car early that morning, a Ford because Dad’s a Ford man, driving back to Kansas where we’d finish up our trip before going back to California. The day before we’d been to downtown OKC, visiting the hospital and adoption agency from my brother’s infancy. The drive was uneventful, we probably listened to music, talked, watched the flat countryside roll by.
Back in Wichita there was chaos, our family friends worried about our safety. It was only then we learned of the bombing and found that the first responders in our family (cousins who were nurses and firefighters) were on the scene.
These days kids in the backseat of a car would see the news immediately through their iPhones, get texts from friends immediately or follow streaming videos on YouTube and CNN Live.
Back in 1995 we didn’t have Timothy McVeigh’s face plastered on every screen, his history pulled from Facebook and shared with the masses, his family stalked, threatened and hunted down by the media.
168 people died that day. Years later when I was in college I visited the site with my Dad, walking amongst the reflecting pool and looking at the chairs, one for each life lost. 19 smaller ones for the children who died.
Those babies would be 18 this year, adults and off to college. And while their loss is horrific, the families who gather today in Oklahoma City remembering their lives, I can’t help but think of the loss of innocence. The freedom of not knowing every detail, every action taken by evil men and women.
It was the same but already so different in 1999, I was a high school freshman when two students killed 19 at Columbine. The 14th anniversary of that event is tomorrow.
In December, we were horrified and shocked when the children and teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary were killed. But I was also outraged when the media, when those with nothing more than a twitter account and basic use of the internet identified the wrong suspect, slaughtered his name publicly and then shrugged to say “oops wrong guy.”
I was stunned that they were sharing, on media news, every step of the killer, who he killed and where. Why anyone would want that in their head is beyond me. It’s not a video game, it’s not an episode of Criminal Minds. The first responders to those sites will live with the horror and memories for years to come. Why would you want that knowledge?
I get it, we like to be ‘in the know’
Everyone wants to be the one who knows shit. Before anyone else, preferably. But in our haste to get likes, retweets and internet karma we forget that it’s gossip.
And worse that “becky smells like a dog” gossip, it’s honest to god, life ruining, slander, “this person is a murdering bastard” gossip.
It’s easier to turn to hate, to fear, to lashing out in our grief. Whether or not you were in Boston this week or just feel the injustice of innocent lives lost and changed forever – do not reach for hate.
In closing, I’ll share what I added to Facebook this Monday, a reminder to myself and my own friends that when everything feels out of control we can always control our response:
Please keep in mind today that people often act out of fear and our knee jerk reactions are not always spoken out of love and clear thinking.
I can’t imagine the chaos and terror in Boston today but let’s please keep from making ugly comments, bad assumptions and attacking each other due to fear.
We don’t need laws, wars, badges, memes, or trials today. We need solidarity, love and abundant giving. So donate blood, call a friend, pray, light a candle or give before you condemn.