Monday, April 20, 2015

Twenty years ago Patriots’ Day. (Oklahoma Strong.)

Today, Massachusetts celebrates Patriots’ Day. The official observance is on the third Monday in April, but “real” Patriots’ day is April 19th.

Yesterday we observed the twentieth anniversary of the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building, a horrific incident that killed 168 people, including a number of very young children who were in the building’s day care center. Over 700 people were injured.

On the day of that bombing, I was on a business trip in Illinois.

My colleague George and I had spent April 18th and 19th in Bloomington, Illinois, with calls on a prospect and a client.

The prospect call, at Caterpillar HQ in nearby Peoria, was god-awful. We were there to give a product demo, but we knew going in that they had already made their decision, and that our call was just part of some fake due diligence on their part. It was hard to blame them. Our product cost an order of magnitude more than the one they went with. Sure, you could do a lot more with our product, but unless you were a PhD in computer science who wanted to build a staircase to the moon with it, there were few out there who could begin to take advantage of it. (Cheap and easy to use will generally trump  expensive and brutal.)

After the rotten call on Caterpillar  - where, among other things, the demo failed in a couple of places; because the product was so hard to navigate to begin with, no one noticed that there were points where it just plain didn’t work – George and I took ourselves to a rather ridiculous hotel called Jumer’s Chateau. There, I recall, it was almost impossible to convince that waitress that we really didn’t want our fish smothered in cheese or drenched in cream.

Although cheap and easy to use will generally trump  expensive and brutal, this is not always the case.

We did have some clients, and one of them was State Farm.

The visit there was a success. State Farm loved us; we loved them. They served several different kinds of Jell-o mold in their cafeteria, so as a daughter of a daughter of the Midwest, I was right at home.

Buoyed after our excellent client meeting and Jello-mold lunch, we headed off to Chicago, where we had some sort of meeting the following day.

While driving through the soy-bean fields on what was a long (3-4 hours) and boring (c.f., soy-bean fields) trip, we turned on the radio. On a string of low-watt AM stations we started to get snatches of what sounded like some pretty terrible news.


The station would fade away.

Oklahoma City.

The next station would die out.

Day care center.

My God, who would bomb a day care center?

As we tried to piece together the story, we immediately thought Muslim terrorists. This was, after all, just a couple of years after the first World Trade Center bombing. What else was there to think?

As we got closer to Chicago, we were able to get a stable signal and hear the bigger picture filled in.

We had dinner in a hotel lobby bar so we could watch the news while we ate.

CNN was around, but we were years away from the fully immersive 24/7 news culture.

The Internet existed – and my company may or may not have had some basic informational web page up by then – but anytime/anywhere access to anything and everything was years away, too.

I don’t even think that I had a cell phone at that point.

George was actually the first person I knew who owned one. When he traded in his brick – which was almost the size of an old walky-talky – for something more sleek and modern a few years later, he gave me the brick. For a couple of years, that was my cell phone, kept in the car and used only for an emergency that never came.

When I think of all the explosion of news, the media coverage, the intensity of the Boston Marathon Bombing, I can only imagine what the world would have made of the far more horrific Oklahoma attack.

Around here, they’re still talking about “Boston Strong,” but I have a hunch that the folks in Oklahoma City were pretty darned strong, too.

Oh, they may not have expressed themselves in quite the same way that the pugnacious inner-Irishmen of Boston did. Remember this one?

Keep Calm

But I suspect that Sooners who are the descendants of those who drove Conestoga wagons to grab a few acres during the Oklahoma Land Rush and/or survived the Dust Bowl are pretty darned strong, too.

Natural disasters. World wars. Terrorist attacks.

There’s nothing special about our response to it.

People are tough. They rebuild. The move on. They survive.

Scars fade, wounds heal.

And unless you lost a loved one, or were injured, or witnessed the event, or helped the survivors survive, those scars fade and wounds heal sooner rather than later.

Most people don’t curl up in a fetal ball in the face of adversity. They get up and get going.

People are tough.

But it’s hard not to think of all those parents who lost their little ones on that terrible day in Oklahoma City.

Twenty years ago. Those little ones would be young adults.

Scars fade, wounds heal.

But I don’t imagine that anyone ever gets over the death of a child, especially one killed in such an ugly, senseless, sudden and violent way.

As we celebrate Patriots’ Day, thoughts are in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma Strong!

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