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Oklahomans see world in one day

By Berry Tramel

April 20, 1995

We stood at the base of the awesome structure with our skulls tilted all the way back, straining to see the top of the World Trade Center.

Five Okies meandering through Manhattan, waiting for the big OSU-Wake Forest game that now seems so small.

We were country come to town, five Gomers who gawked at Greenwich Village and tried to get into Letterman's theater and offered our subway seats to women. All the things only visitors do in New York.

We climbed to the top of the Empire State Building, toured St. Patrick's Cathedral, saw Central Park and walked past Madison Square Garden, Rockefeller Center and the NBC Studios where the Today show is filmed from a storefront window.

And we went to the World Trade Center, a giant among giants, and saw the garage where 26 months ago a terrorist's car bomb killed six people, injured more than 1,000 and crippled the 110-story towers.

We had come to see the world, because we lived in a haven called Oklahoma, and the world wouldn't come to us.

We long have gone to the world. Sixty years ago, our people migrated en masse to California. Fifty years ago, our story hit Broadway with "Oklahoma! " Forty years ago, our football team showed America what a winning streak really was.

But the world left us alone.

Oklahoma always was a wonderful place to come back to. A great place to live even if for some reason you wouldn't want to visit there.

We didn't have the Yankees or the Metropolitan Museum of Art or a 24-hour night life, but we had a place to fall in love and raise children and grow old. A place where the people were gentle and kind, and the living was easy and slow.

We knew nothing of Bosnia and Beirut and Belfast, faraway places with tales of horror that no longer even cause us to read past the headlines. Places no more real to us than Oz or Eden. Places where we figured folks grew accustomed to terrorism.

Wednesday, we found out we were wrong. The world indeed had discovered Oklahoma.

Maybe you heard it on TV. Maybe someone called. Maybe you were within 15 miles of downtown and heard the boom. Maybe the glass in your office was blown to pieces. Maybe you were in the Alfred Murrah Federal 1 Building at 9 a.m. when a car bomb forever ended the innocence of Oklahoma.

We have been in the spotlight before. Patrick Sherrill killed 14 co-workers at the Edmond Post Office in 1986. But that was the work of a crazy man.

This was the work of a crazy world.

This made you wonder if throwing a ball or bouncing a baby, chasing a pup or grilling a burger would ever be the same.

That's why they call it terrorism.

Some day, hopefully sooner than later, we will be able to take in a ball game again. Get excited about the Cowboys or Sooners, care who wins a baseball game, argue about what brand of basketball teen-age girls should play.

It will help the healing. But it won't make the hurt go away.

Terrorism doesn't just break bones and slice skin and crush skulls. It breaks your heart and brands your soul.

It makes you realize that Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City!, now sits there on the shelf. Beirut, Manhattan, Oklahoma City.

On a sleepy April morning with overcast skies, we learned we don't have to go anywhere to see the world.


2005 The Oklahoman, NEWS 9 and Oklahoma City National Memorial.
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