As I write this, I’m on the corner of 5th and Broadway on the second floor of the famous Junction Coffee double-decker bus, elevated just enough to see the top of the Oklahoma City National Memorial. People continue to stream down across the street paying visit to the space where 168 people lost their lives, and as many friends and families were affected that day. These people are choosing to remember what happened all those years ago.
As I take my turn to sit and think of the tragedy that occurred 24 years ago today, I am continually reminded of how OKC has flourished since that fateful day. A new building goes up on the NE corner of 5th and Broadway, even as sound of those construction workers hammering on metal piers echoes down the street. The new Oklahoma City Streetcar passes by every couple of minutes, and there’s an advertisement on the side of the car reminding me it’s playoff season in OKC.
I am sitting between it all. On one side – the memorial, a monument to remember the past. On the other side – signs of progress, evidences of a movement into the future.
The act of remembering, of bearing witness to past events, if done properly, pulls the thinker in two directions, not just one.
To bear witness implicitly demands movement toward the past and a change of direction for future events. One cannot remember the past without taking time out of the future to do so. Further, the events of the past ought to inform how we act in the future. We all know the saying, “Those who do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”
If the way we remember tragic events stays rooted in history, if we keep those events locked in their historical framework and resist from bringing them to the “present” then I believe we are missing the proverbial point.
Today is also Good Friday.
Christians around the world are choosing to remember today as one of the most significant events in history. If Christians only “remembered” what Jesus did all those years ago, but didn’t let it affect them or sit with them, where would we be today?
The question I want to pose for all who are reading this blog is simply: “Are we giving ourselves space to reflect and remember the past, and in doing so, allowing the past to enter our present and change our future direction?”
For Oklahomans, today of all days should be one filled with remembering, and it should extend, I think, beyond the two events I’ve mentioned already in this blog. Take time today to remember personal events that have forever changed you or your family. Take time today to remember and bear witness to the things that are easily forgotten, the people in whatever sphere you inhabit that are easily brushed aside.
I’ll end with this: Over and over in the Hebrew Bible, the great error of the Israelites inevitably starts with the line: “a generation grew up who did not remember the events God had done.” Yet the Israelites celebrated the Passover and other feasts religiously which were designed to remember what God had done. Were they truly bearing witness to the events of the past, or simply acknowledging another day on the calendar?
Will you choose to remember today?