Written to be posted on the 19th... but flickr was poky
I happened to be already heading to OKC to visit some friends/colleagues when it came to my attention that today was the anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P Murrah Building, 14 years ago today. When I worked in OKC, I visited the memorial and museum on Father's Day (coincidence) and paid my respects.
I knew that I had to go visit today, and I'm really glad I did. When I visited on Father's Day, there were just two chairs decorated for the occasion. Today, nearly every chair had a tribute of some sort. There was definitely beauty today in the face of tragedy.
Most people who were wandering around were out-of-towners, but I happened across a woman who had a personal tie to the tragedy. I initially spotted her because she aimed for one chair in particular and had a beautiful bouquet of flowers in hand. At first, she placed them on the chair, and seemed to pray. I gave her plenty of room because I did not want to intrude. In fact, I wouldn't have except she was trying to secure the bouquet to the chair with string, and seemed to be struggling.
I offered a hand and she took me up on the offer and we secured her bouquet to the chair. I choked out a "I'm sorry for your loss," and she thanked me on both accounts. Again, wishing to give her privacy, I wandered away to take more photos and gave her room. She and I crossed paths once more and we started talking about the tragedy and the memorial in general. After mentioning our mutual disbelief that it had been 14 years already - that her then young son was now graduated from high school, college and married... that's when the conversation turned to the opportunity to gently inquire as to her connection to the tragedy. I figured that it was a coworker, or perhaps a friend.
She lost her husband, 14 years ago today. The pain of her loss hit me incredibly and after repeating my condolences, I asked her if she'd accept a hug from a stranger. I told her I felt compelled to give her a hug on this day of loss. To lose anyone in a senseless tragedy like that is painful, but to lose a spouse... I can only imagine. She accepted it and hugged me back and we spoke a little more before parting our ways. We introduced ourselves and wished each other well. Her husband was Johnny Allen Wade, member of the US Dept of Transportation.
Joan Wade, it was my distinct pleasure to meet you, today of all days. I can only hope that our conversation was as powerful for you as it was for me. Perhaps in different ways - but the connections made by strangers are often the best. Because they are unexpected.
More pictures - which you should definitely check out - at my flickr page