Today is the twentieth anniversary of the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. One hundred sixty-eight people lost their lives that day, in what was, until 9/11, the deadliest terrorist act in the United States.
One one of my visits to the home of my friends Michael and Maria Scaperlanda, they took me to visit the memorial of the bombing. Here is the statue that stands across the street from the memorial entrance (which you can see in the background).
Part of the memorial is the Field of Empty Chairs, on which is placed one chair for each person killed, in the approximate position of where the person would have been in the building at the time of the bombing. Large chairs for the adults and smaller ones for the children.
As we pray for the victims of terrorist acts….and for those who commit them, there is one other thing we should keep in mind, and that is what we celebrate during this Easter season: that death is not the end. Although I didn’t take a pictures of it, there is something else on that memorial site I have never forgotten: an American Elm called the Survivor Tree. The tree withstood the full force of the attack that day and there is no earthly reason it is not completely dead and gone. Yet it continues to stand and to grow. I felt its life and its power when I stood touching it during my visit to the site. You can literally feel the life pulsing through it.
Dom Helder Camara writes, “in those most critical, most agonizing of moments, we Christians have no right to forget that we are not born to die; we are born to live. We must hold on to hope, to inner peace, since we have the deep certainty of having been born for Easter, the everlasting Easter Day.”
Here is the reflection my friend Maria Scaperlanda wrote for the fifteenth anniversary of the bombing. It is worth reading again today.