Wednesday, January 31, 2007

About #23

My answer to #23 in the meme below seems to have attracted some attention, so I'll spill a little about my strange life.

I am, by nature, a night owl. I knew this way back in high school, and I suppose as much as anything that led me into the first part of my newspaper career, first in college and then as a copy editor/obit writer/copy chief/wire editor/layout editor/page 1 editor at a large metropolitan newspaper.

Even when I held daytime state jobs (for a total of about 7 years), I couldn't beat that late-night habit. And eventually I did go back to working nights for several more years before working days again as a mid-level editor.

I tend to be gearing up just about the time morning folks are crashing and burning for the night. And being a semi-solitary type, it sometimes doesn't suit me to sit at home. So if I'm particularly antsy, and the weather is OK, I'll go outside. Once I close the door behind me I usually jump in the car and go on an adventure, just to see what the world is doing when most people are asleep.

Several times over the past decade I've found myself downtown in the middle of the night, at the site of the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. It is a peaceful place now, but there are still spirits there that I can feel. Sometimes I'll park a block or so away from the memorial itself. Even now, in the light from the street lights, I can see shards of glass on the sidewalks shining like diamonds in the night.

I've spent time sitting in the chapel on the east side of the memorial, and walking around First United Methodist Church on the same block. I remember the afternoon I went in with a photographer friend of mine and someone who had been part of the rescue/recovery work, before the memorials were held. We were working on a book together for a while and we got a very private tour of the church -- areas that were used as the early morgue; where triage was done; where volunteers were fed and came to rest after their super-human work.

We also went to the sanctuary, where the stained glass ceiling fell that Wednesday morning right after Easter. The pastor was supposed to tape his weekly radio show that morning at 9 a.m., but his secretary just called to him from the door to say the radio station had to reschedule. He went back to his office at exactly 9:01; where he was standing a minute before was covered with the stained glass that rained down at 9:02.

The rose window on the west side balcony also blew out, twisted in its frame, though the glass remained. A large cross carried in the Good Friday service still leaned across that window with its eerie drape.

In the memorial itself, a rectangular reflective pool now covers the point where evil exploded. For some time after April 19, 1995, NW 5th Street remained open to pedestrian traffic. The point where the truck exploded was apparent. You could stand there and feel the gates of hell beneath your feet.

The pool reminds me of the power of baptism: Water covers evil and makes us new again.

The memorial brings me peace. The cyclone fence surrounding it remains a "people's memorial." Visitors from all over the world still come to bring tokens of remembrance: Teddy bears of all types; car tags; key chains; photographs; poems; T-shirts signed by individuals and groups. It is fascinating to see.

Perhaps the area I find most comforting is the grove of trees and the play area that were created as the children's memorial. So many children over the past decade-plus have come to learn what happened and they are able to start processing it by drawing pictures on the sidewalk with the chalk that's been provided for that purpose. Others write simple notes.

Come back again and I'll tell you more ... next up, my international adventures in the wee hours.

No comments: