Day 7 – Oklahoma City
by Jonah Schulman
We started off today in Dallas listening to a speaker and author named William Federer about bringing Christianity into the U.S. and U.S. government. This was the opposite view point of the discussion we had in Little Rock about the need to keep church and state separate. He began with an extensive history lesson about rulers and order in society. He then talked about how we need Christianity to maintain order in society and connection to God gives everybody a conscious to do good rather than bad. I thought he made some good points during the presentation and I enjoyed the history lesson. I think he was trying to get at the fact that written law codes may not be enough to stop people from doing bad things. Anyway, it was a good speech and he gave out some his books for us to read as well.
After the speech, we took the long bus ride from Dallas to Oklahoma City. When we arrived in Oklahoma, we first dropped off our dirty laundry and then drove to a meeting with a refugee aid organization called the Spero Project. They taught us all about refugees, refugees in Oklahoma City, and the refugee system. It was tough learning about how hard it is for some of these people that are forced to leave their homes and all their possessions just for safety. They had a refugee from Turkey who resettled in Oklahoma City talk to us about his journeys and what other refugees from his area have to go through. Learning about how the refugee system works truly opened my mind to how bad it is for many people outside the U.S. When a refugee reaches a refugee camp, they often have to wait an average of 24 years before they can be moved to a safe country! If they ever get to move. This speech was an eye-opening moment for me.
After that difficult meeting, we traveled to another difficult spot. We went to the memorial of the Oklahoma City bombing which was one of the most devastating domestic terrorist attacks in U.S. history. The bombing took place at a federal office building on April 19, 1995 that took the lives of 168 Americans including 15 children. There was a beautiful reflection pool and two towers on each side of it that read 9:01 and 9:03. Those numbers represent the time before and after the bombing occurred and how much can change in such a short period of time. There was also a nice tree that was mostly charred by the explosion, but it regrew beautifully. For me, this could symbolize America’s ability to rebuild itself after disaster strikes. This was a truly powerful memorial.
After those sad events, we cheered up by going to a minor league baseball game. We rooted for the hometown team, the Oklahoma City Dodgers. It was a very fun night as we got an all you can eat buffet, free Dodgers hats, and a fireworks show at the end. The Dodgers also won the game 7-3. The baseball game was a nice bonding experience for the group and I thought it was loads of fun.
After this cheerful event, we went back to the bombing memorial at night to get a different perspective of it. There are 168 empty chairs at the memorial which symbolize all of the lives that were lost, and that empty seat at the dinner table when the families’ loved ones never returned. It was an even more powerful experience at night. Many of us shared what we thought about the memorial and Billy shared a sad story about how events and people all around the world relate back to us. After this powerful and meaningful day, we were all tired and got some rest at the hotel.