For me, today epitomized the Etgar 36 experience as a whole. In going from the most somber of emotions to joking around with friends in mere hours, I have learned to expect the twists and turns that come with this journey.
The first thing we did today was have a “framing” discussion on the heated topic of gun control to prepare for our future meetings and conversations on the topic. This discussion, as with the others we have had up to this point, has been informative and thought-provoking. I am very excited for what is to ensue with our encounters with this subject in Colorado and Utah.
Next, we made our way to Oklahoma City and immediately went to the site of the bombing there in 1995. A park ranger spoke to the group about the bombing as well as the symbolism of the memorial site. The experience was a sullen one, but, whether it was because of intense heat or another reason, I felt like I did not fully grasp the magnitude of the experience in that moment. I took in the creative architecture of the memorial, but the raw emotional aspect did not strike me. Thankfully, we would be presented with another chance.
After visiting the bombing site and memorial, we headed to dinner and then to see a minor league baseball game. The Oklahoma City RedHawks (the Houston Astros AAA affiliate) defeated the Iowa Cubs, 3-2. It was a good time for all. Everyone got to relax and eat some ballpark food. What was really exciting was that we had the opportunity to see one of the greatest baseball players of the last 20 years, and a personal favorite of mine, Manny Ramirez, who is currently a player-coach for the Iowa Cubs.
Just as we thought the night would end on a joyous note, the bus stopped. Billy offered us a chance to see the Oklahoma City bombing memorial at night, so as the majority of us exited the bus, so did the joking nature of our emotions. Each of the 168 chairs – symbolizing innocent lives that were taken – sent a direct message about the sanctity of life. The physical space between the wall that read 9:01 (the minute before the explosion) and 9:03 (the minute after) related time and space in a powerful manner. A “9:02” can come at any time. That was easily the most powerful moment of the trip thus far.
Next we head to Dodge City, Kansas and Denver, Colorado as we make our way west.