People tend to remember important dates. There is something about an anniversary that makes us feel closer to an event even if that event slips farther into the past with every passing second. You know your birthday even if you don’t like it. You probably know a few other birthdays as well. Wedding anniversaries tend to stick in the mind.
And, of course, anniversaries of tragedy are there, rattling around your brain, as well. Unfortunately, humanity has been around long enough now and has enough darkness in it that I doubt there is a day on the calendar that isn’t the anniversary of a terrible, horrific deed or event. Often, a day will host several. There are only 366 possible dates and far more than that number of disasters.
September 11 is forever burned in your mind f you’re older than 20 and American (though the miracle of communications satellites implanted the memory of this date in the memory of billions of others). However, before 2001, September 11 was already a momentous date in Chilean history as that is the day Pinochet took over with Allende committing suicide and La Moneda being bombed. That day is, mostly, viewed with sadness and regret here.
If you’re Oklahoman, today is a date that will forever live in infamy. On this day in 1995, the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was destroyed in an attack launched by anti-government terrorists. 168 people were killed including 19 children in a day-care center. Hundreds were injured.
The attack occurred less than two years after I moved from Oklahoma to North Carolina. I had been in the building before but have no clear memories of its interior. I did know the building by sight, as most people from the state did. My father occasionally had business in the area. Like many Oklahoman ex-pats, I learned of the bombing by watching TV. I was in Charleston, SC celebrating passing qualifying exams in grad school with friends who had also passed. Well before I owned a cell phone, I spent a couple of hours trying to track down family I thought might have been in the area despite my having no reason to believe that. I spent the next few days glued to the TV watching my people deal with the horror and the sadness and responding like the fine folks I knew them to be.
In my memory, watching the news in the wake of the bombing felt exactly like I would feel six years later watching 9/11 unfold. After the shock, a complex set of emotions that include anger, fear, worry and sadness. Disbelief that humans can treat each other this way and that, in the face of such horror, other humans can be their best selves.
I know that every day on the calendar could tell a dozen stories like the Murrah building, or worse. I know that there are people in the world who have had to watch their people suffer on days I give no thought to. But this one belongs to Oklahomans. So, to those who were there, who died, who suffered and rose to the challenge, who carried on and built a stronger, better city, a kind thought and a prayer from Santiago.