“19 April, 1995”

(Originally written 19 April 2020)

I hope you will indulge me for a moment. This is a personally poignant day.

On this day 25 years ago, I sat on the bottom floor of the library at the University of Central Oklahoma – as the crow flies about 15 miles north of the Murrah Federal Building site. About 9am, Timothy McVeigh, a military explosives expert, drove a truck filled with ammonium nitrate and plastic explosives in front of the building. The blast yield was equivalent to 5,000 pounds of TNT. I heard a loud bang and the south-facing windows and doors of my building shuddered. It sounded like something heavy had fallen on the roof. I went back to my work.

About two hours later, I stood in the 2nd floor hallway at Old North on campus. A television had been positioned there, and for the first time, I saw what what had happened. Two weeks previously, my wife and I had visited the Social Security office there, right across the hall from the building’s daycare. Two weeks later, many of those people we saw were dead. McVeigh said he did it because he didn’t believe in this country anymore. He needed to kill to get people to wake up to the truth. He believed that until his execution. In his mind, he was a hero. All I could think about was that this was my home, and someone tried to blow it up.

But out of darkness came light. Rescue workers came by the hundreds. Lives were snatched out of the smoldering wreckage. Food was delivered free in many cases to these people. Ordinary citizens came together to do whatever they could. There was no race, no ethnicity, and no prejudice on that scene. There were just people, helping people.

And across the street, not 30 yards from the truck, stood an American elm. It was called the “Survivor Tree” by residents at that time. It was shredded, impaled with glass, and burned. Most thought it was dead. It was almost cut down for evidence. But the next spring, it bloomed. When the Memorial was built in downtown OKC, it was required that the tree be a part of it. There are trees all over the country now that are direct descendants of the tree that stood firm in that moment of evil. There is even one in San Angelo, on the west end of Summit Lane.

I planted it there.

When life explodes around us, we will be damaged. We will be hurt, and there will be parts of us that never return as they were. The Murrah Building was gone, along with 168 people and our sense of security. But no matter what, through the love of God and the strength of our faith and hope, we can get back up. We can move forward. We can persevere. And we can bloom again. For I am persuaded that no act of evil can separate us from Him.

Have a blessed Sunday.

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