Fifteen years ago today I was home sick with the chicken pox. I was 16, a junior in high school, and feeling much better. The previous week had been miserable. I had chicken pox EVERYWHERE. They were in my throat. I think they were in my stomach too. The itching wasn’t even partly soothed by oatmeal and milk baths. I was allowed the scratch my head and I did violently. I hope I never lose my hair because I am certain it is horrible under there.
I was feeling much better though and had been trying to get to the City all morning. My dad was home working on the second floor edition with a family friend. I think he wanted my help, but as a 16 year old I mostly wanted to get out of the house that had been my infirmary for the past week and a half. I still had a few more days before I was allowed back at school and I think this was the first time in my life I missed school.
Every time I went for the door I was called back for something. The last time I tried to leave the phone rang. I answered it and my mother was on the other end asking if I “felt that.” I turned on the TV and was met with a breaking story about an explosion in downtown OKC. The first reports were that it might have been a gas main, and then the live video of a billowing cloud over the Federal Building was put up.
Two days later I was back in school and it was surreal. Everyone was living life as if someone hadn’t blown up a building 30 minutes away. They were talking about the same drama and pretending life looked the same as it did April 18th 1995.
It was years before I went past the site. I’ve never “been” to the memorial. I would drive out of my way to avoid it. I went back to OKC for a friend’s wedding a few years ago and got turned around. There are a lot of one way streets and I missed my turn. I forgot where I was as I went down another street out of habit. You can’t really get lost in OKC. It is a grid so you can always find your way. I felt a bit lost because several things had changed and then I remembered where I was. Maybe I knew where I was on some level the whole time. I drove past the memorial and kept on driving.
Someday I might be able to go back without remembering my visits to the place as a kid, without thinking about the first visions of the explosion, without feeling disgust that people weren’t changed.
I wonder if that day might be the next time I’m able to make it into the city. This is the first time in 15 years I hadn’t been thinking about this date for the month leading up to it. Maybe I’ve been too busy, or maybe I’m finally getting over it.
Where were you on April 19th 1995? Have you been to the memorial? How did it affect you?