By day I was working in a call center answering phone calls from the general public. We "supported" medical supplies by addressing concerns and questions from consumers. I was assigned to the incontinence products. My most used line was that our product couldn’t hold the "full human void of 600 cc." I didn’t know what a cc was, and I wondered why I had to explain that we were referring only to human voids.
By night I was working on a local television show called ‘The Travel Junkie’. It was my love and passion, and I would stay up all night researching and writing scripts. The next day I often slept between cc’s.
A lovely career before me, and a relationship heading towards splitsville, it wouldn’t take much for me to move from my hometown of Cincinnati. The final push came in the form of a screenplay contest. I watched my entry rise up through the various levels of competition, and had packed up my slightly worn Mustang -- cc’s didn’t pay much -- before I reached the finals.
It was a nearly 2,000 mile drive, but I was on top of the world. In fact, when I feel blue, I re-read the letters that I mailed home. They were so full of joy, hope and energy, something only youth provides. I had made a mad dash towards something new, a place I hadn’t seen before. My first stop was Oklahoma City.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial
I was in college that Wednesday morning, in an English class, listening to a lecture on William Faulkner. It would be nearly an hour before I would realize what had transpired, as America awakened to a new terror. At 9:02 a.m. on a clear April morning in 1995, a bomb made from ammonium nitrate and fuel oil exploded in Oklahoma City, outside the Alfred P. Murreh government building.
The blast damaged or destroyed 324 buildings within a sixteen block radius, burned 86 cars beyond salvage, and shattered the glass of 258 nearby buildings. Inside the Murreh government building were the Bureau of Alchohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the Social Security Administration, the Housing and Urban Development office, the Veteran’s Affairs Department, the Secret Service and Drug Enforcement Agency, and a child care center for the employees. Over 680 people were injured, and 168 people — including 19 children — were killed.
Ninety minutes after the bombing, an Oklahoma state trooper stopped Timothy McVeigh on a firearms charge. And the plot behind the bombing began to unfold. On September 14th, 1994 McVeigh began stockpiling explosives. On April 14th, 1995 McVeigh bought a 1977 Mercury Marquis, his getaway car, and three days later, rented a Ryder truck with which to carry the bomb.
McVeigh was found guilty on 11 counts of murder and conspiracy, and was executed on June 11, 2001. His accomplice, Terry Nichols, was sentenced to life in prison.
Think about the people as if they were storm troopers in Star Wars. They may be individually innocent, but they are guilty because they work for the Evil Empire. — Timothy McVeigh
I stopped to see the memorial, which was completed in 2000. Long gone were the sirens and wails of fresh pain. Instead, myself, and another couple holding hands across the way, strolled the peaceful greenery.
In the center is a fountain in which birds bathe, with time-stamped arches at each end of the fountain, and row after row of shiny chairs. Each chair represents a soul lost, and the smaller chairs are for the nineteen children taken too soon.
More touching was a nearby fence, just a simple wire fence, to which loved ones, and strangers from across the country, had tacked up, stapled or taped mementos of that day, or of someone special. Teddy bears, T-shirts, photos and poems fluttered in the breeze.
Given the choice between the experience of pain and nothing, I would choose pain. -- William Faulkner
For more information on visiting the memorial, visit the official website. www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org
Santa Fe, New Mexico
What brought me to Santa Fe, for the first time, was a whim, a need to get off of the highway. And, as I was passing through Albuquerque, I realized that Santa Fe – one-time home of the legendary Georgia O’Keeffe – was only an hour north.
I was greeted by a thick, Adobe-walled, tan colored town, where even the McDonald’s blended in. But, McDonald’s was only on the outskirts, as I saw not a chain store nor cookie cutter restaurant within the historic center. I passed over a trickle – which the sign stated was the Rio Grande river – and towards the historic square. The square contained a bandstand, century old trees and tamale vendors.
The buildings surrounding the square are ancient by American standards (Santa Fe is the oldest U.S. capital), and one boasted a large portal (covered porch-like area) under which the Native Americans spread woven blankets to sell their wares.
Santa Fe is most definitely the center of the "land of enchantment." I strolled through the town, reading historic plaques (Billy the Kid was here!) and found a delightful pastry shop down a small alley.
I exclaimed in a letter home, "My God, what country." And it was all captured in the colorful paintings by O’Keeffe that were hung in a large gallery downtown. Cattle skulls, flowers and the hills surrounding the area floated before my wandering eyes. I quickly found out that O’Keeffe didn’t actually live within Santa Fe, but had an artist’s compound at nearby Ghost Ranch.
Though I felt a peace in the earthy town, I didn’t yet realize that I would retire to the region. At that point in my life, all I could think about was the dazzle of Hollywood.