I think everyone has years and sometimes specific dates that stand out for them. September 11, 2001 is a no-brainer for everyone. 2004 was the year of my marriage; 2007 the birth of my daughter. 1995 by far had the heaviest emotional toll on me.
1995 began with that charge you feel when you’re falling in love again. Josh and I had one of those relationships where we just “got” each other. Once we were together, we were like peas and carrots. The voices in his head became the jalapeno sauce that was smothered on top so thick it became inedible. But, in the beginning, things were good. In November he died. I went back to Texas. The day after Christmas, my beloved uncle Don died. My mom asked me if I felt up to going back to Enid for the funeral. I said I was. That’s when she decided to break the news to me that my sweet husky, Barnabas, had been gored by my grandfather’s goat and died the day after Thanksgiving.
November and December of 1995 sucked ass.
April wasn’t so spiffy, either.
In early April, Josh finally agreed to go to rehab. His mother and I took him down to Norman, south of Oklahoma City, to a rehab center there. The staff evaluated him, and decided that rehab would be pointless for a man who believed we were all aliens sent to earth to influence him. Most of those around him were from Mars, he said, because they were there to make war with him. He said I was from Venus, because I was love to him. That brought me a little comfort that he still felt something like love for me inside his tortured self. The staff recommended he cross the quad to visit the mental hospital. We went over and he checked in. They immediately put him on meds, which sedated him enough that he was completely unaware of the happenings just 16 miles away on April 19th.
I had had a friend over that morning. After she left, Lee called me. “Did you hear about the bombing in Oklahoma City?” I know this sounds strange, but it didn’t really register. Maybe I’d seen too many explosions in the movies to really understand what had happened. I turned on the tv, and sank into the couch in horror at the images I saw. OKC looked like a war zone. It was stunning.
I don’t remember how many days passed before Lee and I drove down to Norman to visit Josh. When travelling from Enid to Norman, you drive through OKC, unless you want to drive out of your way. We decided to see what we could see downtown.
The streets were cordoned off within a 16 block radius. There were soldiers and police officers standing outside the barricade, one literally every two feet. No way in hell anyone was getting past those guys. All the businesses we drove past had plywood on the windows where glass had once been. Everyone walking on the street looked like a zombie. No one seemed to be talking, and they moved slowly, like the sadness in their hearts had turned their blood to liquid cement.
We continued our drive to Norman without speaking. When we arrived at the hospital and finally saw Josh, he still didn’t know about the bombing. People felt it as far as 55 miles away, but he was so zonked on anti-psychotics, he didn’t have a clue.
That was the only time Lee visited him down there in the month he was a patient. I went down about half a dozen times. I would listen to the radio on the way down. I don’t remember what station I listened to, but I know it didn’t play hardly any music. The DJs would just come in to report on the rescue efforts at the Murrah building. I remember being amazed at the stories they told.
“Okay, we just heard from the site….the rescue workers are running low on D batteries. And they need those footy pantyhose things, or baby socks…something to put on the search and rescue dogs’ feet so they don’t get cut by the shattered glass”
Within less than 30 minutes, they’d announce that the need was filled. People had filled their cars up with whatever they could grab and were waiting at the perimeter until what they’d brought would be needed. Batteries, flashlights, booties, water bottles, food. You name it, these angels were just waiting to provide it.
The only song I remember being played was Live’s “Lighting Crashes”. I heard it today on the radio, hence my writing on this subject today. Everytime I hear that song, I think of the OKC bombing, and of Josh. Someone at the station had mixed in soundbites from the news. I’ve always remembered the voice of this one woman crying “whoever did this, I hope you’re happy”. I also remember a reporter speaking of rescue workers being so torn up at the sight of the wounded and murdered children they had to remove from the building, they couldn’t look down at the tiny bundles they carried. I haven’t heard that mix since 1995, but tonight I decided to see if I could find it online. I did.
I almost cried in the car tonight when I heard the original come on the radio. I always tear up. When I watched the above, however, there was no almost.
Years later I flew into OKC from California to visit the grandparents. I told them not to expect me at the usual time (everyone knows it takes 90 minutes to get from “the city” to my grandparent’s house in Enid). I went to the memorial. It was beautiful. The 168 bronze and stone chairs to represent the victims, the tree that survived the blast and still bears its’ scars, and my favorite, the two gates. On one gate is inscribed, “9:01”, on the other gate “9:03”. The pool that separates them is meant to represent 9:02am, the moment the bomb detonated. On one side of the memorial was a chain link fence that carried the pictures and other remembrances of those who died.
I got in the car and drove to Enid and hugged the bajeezus out of my family.
I know that what happened on 9/11 cost far more lives and had a wider impact than what happened in OKC 6 years earlier, but, being from Oklahoma and having lived there at the time, well, it obviously means something else to me. It is forever intertwined with bittersweet memories of Don and Barnabas, but mostly, of Josh, one of too many people who died that year.