Tears in Oklahoma City

February 26, 2018

I had a powerful, devastating experience earlier today. Walking into an airport café in Oklahoma City, I noticed everyone in the restaurant standing in silence, facing the same direction and looking out the window. There, right beneath us, was a drama unfolding that we all know happens but which strikes you in the gut nonetheless when you see it happening in real time.

The soldiers were lined up outside the hearse. The family was waiting in the shuttle. The doors of the plane opened, finally the flag-draped casket emerged, and a well-choreographed ballet of pain took place for all to see. His (or her) mother, held up by a caring male at her side (husband, father, brother?), brothers and sisters, walking over to the hearse; the crying beginning – among them, among us – the mother kneeling at the hearse, the military pallbearers walking in respectful formation, as a profound silence and reverence prevailed among all. All of us, in that moment, both loved and grieved that soldier.

How respectful we are, once people die. How reverent we are towards life, once it has slipped from our grasp.

Slowly, as the hearse drove away — the family continuing their process of welcoming home the dead from some strange land wherever it was, to the embrace of Oklahoma — and the strangers in the restaurant all returned to our seats, to our lives. Whispers, then louder voices returned. But I don’t think anyone left the restaurant untouched. Red and Blue – and remember, this is Oklahoma – we participated together in a painful American ritual today. And I doubt any of us will be quite the same.

I can only speak for myself, but I speak through tears. I will not forget that casket. I will not forget that soldier. I will not forget to pray. And I will not forget to care.

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