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Published:April 15th, 2008 08:48 EST

Another Story Behind the Poem

By Ed Roberts

Earlier I shared the story behind the poem Miracles. " There is another poem I wish to do this with. This week is a special week for those who live here in Oklahoma City. This coming Saturday we will mark the 13th anniversary of a day we will never be able to forget. First, the poem ---

This is Oklahoma

I was shown a picture
Of what used to be a building
As this man placed this gruesome scene
On the table in front of me he said
"This is Oklahoma"

I reached out and took his hand
Told him to close his eyes and I closed mine
Just for a moment he could see through my eyes
Not of my head but of my heart
A woman ambulance driver
Held a bleeding child in her arms
And could not put him down
Though she knew there were others
She could not leave his side
I said "This is Oklahoma"

A man whose face and clothes
Were covered in his own blood
Was on his injured knees
Digging through piles of rock
With his bare hands
Trying desperately to see
If anyone else was still alive
This is Oklahoma"

Rescue workers crawled into places
That could shift at any second
And bury them alive
Tired and exhausted themselves
They stood in line
Each waiting their own turn to go back.
"This is Oklahoma"

And from a place
They simply called "The Pit"
A mountain of a man emerged clinging to a toy
Because it was all he was able to find
And on his face covered with tears
Was written the true horror of this place
Yet he too went back to get in line
Yes, this is Oklahoma"

I told the man who sat before me
Do not look at this destruction
What was done here
To see the tragedy of what happened
You first have to see what was here before
But to truly see this place
We call Oklahoma
All you have to do
Is see what still remains"
"Now, this is Oklahoma"

Ed Roberts 5/01/95

Now the story ---

For those who do not already know, I was born in Oklahoma City and have lived here my entire life. Yes, I have visited many other places, but this has been and will, probably, always be my home. It is not difficult for those who live here to tell you exactly where we were and what we were doing on the morning of April 19th, 1995. I guess the best way to relate is to think where you were and what you were doing on the morning of September 11th, 2001. Unfortunately we here in Oklahoma had already experienced what we prayed no one else in this country would be able to understand. This is my home!   What happened that day in April hit VERY deep.

At the time of the bombing of the Murrah Building, I was at work about seven miles away from the downtown area; and, my wife was at work only about one and one-half blocks away. We stopped work and went outside because we heard what sounded like a clap of thunder on what was otherwise a bright, sunny, spring morning. My wife had to hang up on a customer she had on the phone because the windows of her office were blown in by the blast, and most of the ceiling tiles of the roof of the office fell down. I did not find out my wife was safe until after 2PM that day.  The bomb went off at 9:02 in the morning. Believe me, these were some of the longest hours in my life.

Everyone here was touched by the bombing in one way or another. People had friends or family members who were hurt or, worse, killed in the blast. The media went into 24-hour coverage of the search and rescue mission. People scrambled to try and provide rescue workers with what they needed. Crime here actually came to a halt for several days. There was no looting, no robbing; people here spent their efforts in helping others. This is my home, and I am VERY proud of the people here. Where else could you find a place where this would happen?  (From what I understand, New York City experienced the same thing. For a city of that size, it is a great accomplishment.)

It was about one week after the bombing when I went downtown to visit the site. There were a lot of people still working on the rescue mission, even though many knew there was little chance of finding anyone else alive. I was stopped by a reporter from Wisconsin who was looking to interview a local person. She asked me a few questions but seemed to be missing the extent of the effect of this tragic day. She seemed to be focusing on the damage of one building, not the faces of all the people who were walking by. She and I spent several minutes talking and we walked around the downtown area a bit so she could get a better picture of the extent of the damage. There were cracks in the sidewalks within a six-block area around the bombing site. People gathered at the Cox Center downtown and provided meals to the people who were participating in the rescue effort and to those who had their lives shattered by this day. There were also people coming from the makeshift morgue that had been set up, people who either had found the bodies of their missing loved ones or left still not knowing their fate. I told the reporter this was the real story here. This was my home that had been attacked. These people, yes, were hurt; they were angry, but they found a way to rise above all of this and show a compassion that few will ever get the chance to witness.

It`s been almost thirteen years now since I wrote this poem. Thirteen years since the day the storm came and took so many innocent lives. I cannot read this poem without tears; I doubt there will ever come a day when I will be able to. I felt that I could not let this week pass, though, without sharing it and its story with you. It was more than a building that was attacked on April 19th, 1995. It was a people, a way of life. Those evil men who did this tried to cause fear and chaos and believed they possibly could destroy the very fabric of those whom they attacked. If they proved anything, they proved just how strong the people are who live here in this fine city and how deep their hearts really are. That day, and the fateful day in September that was to follow, proved to us all that in our darkest hour we can be the people we sometimes forget we are capable of being. I pray someday it will not take a tragedy to remind us of this, but that we can seek to be this kind of people everyday instead.

Unlike the last time, I am choosing to leave you with another poem, though. Its story you already know because I wrote it about the same day.

The Day the Storm Came
I heard a distant thunder
That came before the storm
The sky was clear
The sun shown bright
Yet the darkest day we shall remember
Came
In an instant
A tick of a clock
That hung upon the wall
All was quiet
And in the midst of this silent storm
All were cloaked in its horror
Where children played
And many started their day
We saw but what was left
And heard their cries
A sight beyond belief
Greeted those still alive
No one remained untouched
But there were heroes made this day
Reaching out in every way
And sometimes with broken hands
They held on to those
Who otherwise might slip away
Refusing to submit
To the evil that struck this place
In the torrents that followed
Of rain and pain
So many stood against the storm
Keeping the flicker of hope alive
Even when the darkness came
Knowing that chances were slim
And even when there was no chance at all
Though the storm inside us continues
And would tear us all apart
We shall stand against this deluge
United as one people
Joined together
By our hearts

Ed Roberts 4/27/95
May we someday be able to understand
And possibly learn to forgive
But never let us forget

For more information about the Oklahoma City Bombing please visit

http://www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org/