I’ve never been to Oklahoma, nor do I know anyone who lives there, and I abashedly confess that visiting the Memorial was parenthetical, a quick detour en route to the hotel for a meeting. But the moment I crossed the threshold, my lighthearted conversation with a friend became hushed, even reverent. I had, unwittingly stumbled upon a very sacred place.
The Memorial, which honors those who lost their lives in the tragic bombing on April 19, 1995, includes a large reflecting pool; its perimeter traces that of the Murrah Building, what was once N.W. Fifth Street. At the far end, and to the left of the pool, stands the Survivor Tree, an American Elm, that miraculously survived the blast. I found myself most drawn to the 168 ladder-backed chairs, one for each person who died, large ones for the adults and miniature chairs for the children. The words of grief-stricken Marius from Les Miserables came to mind, “Empty chairs and empty tables where my friends will meet no more.”
Chairs are such a quotidian part of our surroundings. We think of them in terms of their functionality – somewhere to sit – to plunk down our backpacks, purses, briefcases. Perhaps that's why they are such a fitting marker: what was ordinary is now an extra-ordinary signifier that each of these people continues to have a place.
I couldn't help but think too, that while catastrophes will continue to strike, there is at least one calamity that is avoidable: the loss of life that occurs when you and I fail to claim our place in the world, leaving our chair empty. Some might call this hyperbole. But, forfeiting our place is, to me, a tragedy of individual proportion.
This morning, I am grieving at another tragedy, one much closer to home. I am thinking not only of chairs, but of legs and feet that ran, and that will run no more — at least in our present sphere.
When people commit acts of terror, I believe the intent is for people to die, but even more so, they want to throw a grenade at our hope for the future, our own lives, those we love.
We can't, we musn't, let our hope or dreams die.
As a symbol of my hope, I am contemplating running the Boston Marathon next year. It would be a stretch for me. I've never even run a 10k, but isn't that what hope entails?
May each of us grieve, and bear witness to this devastating loss, and then start walking, even running toward hope, as if our lives depend on it.
Because they do.
Photo: Anne Rippy/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images
This post originally published at linkedin.com