Twenty years ago, on April 19th, I was serving as Oklahoma’s lieutenant governor.
That morning, I was in downtown Oklahoma City with over 1,000 attendees at the Metro Prayer Breakfast. We prayed, read Scripture and heard from speakers who gave testimony to the incredible things God had done in their lives. Little did we know how heavily we would need to lean on our faith and the strength of God to get us through what was about to happen.
At 9:02 that morning, Timothy McVeigh detonated a truck bomb that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building. It was a horrific act of evil and terrorism that took the lives of 169 men, women and children and shook our state to the core.
The sense of loss that day was indescribable. What can you say to someone who has just lost their mother, their father or a spouse? What do you tell a parent who has just lost a child because a daycare center was destroyed by a bomb? The senseless brutality, the barbarism of it, could have brought the city and the state to its knees. It could have diminished the faith of the very same men and women who were gathered in downtown Oklahoma City that morning to pray.
It did not.
Instead, what we witnessed in the hours and days and weeks after that terrible moment was something else entirely. First responders, volunteers, charities and faith organizations came from all corners of the state and nation, working day and night, to lend a hand. Wherever there was someone in need, there was a person stepping forward and offering help.
I still remember how a man, hearing that rescue crews needed extra construction boots, drove up to the Murrah building, took off his boots and offered them to first responders. Charities and faith groups served the first responders warm meals as they worked around the clock. Even school children pitched in, collecting pennies to go to recovery efforts.
Meanwhile, the Oklahoma City Community Fund raised millions of dollars from generous donors – not just here in Oklahoma, but across the nation and the world – to help people get back on their feet, to pay for medical bills and, even today, to continue to support the long-term needs of survivors.
The Murrah bombing was meant to be an attack on the federal government, but we saw it as an attack on our Oklahoma family. We responded like a family. We grieved together; we prayed together; we rebuilt together; and we healed together.
That remarkable response gave birth to a new phrase: the “Oklahoma Standard.” The Oklahoma Standard is a community spirit of resilience, compassion, and generosity witnessed by the whole world. It is something that makes us special – as a people and as a state – and something that we have an obligation to teach our children and their children about.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum was built to honor and remember the victims of April 19, 1995; but it also stands as a monument to the Oklahoma Standard.
In the month of April, the memorial staff has asked us to renew and revive the Oklahoma Standard by performing one act of honor, one act of service and one act of kindness.
My office is proud to accept that challenge. On April 18th, I will honor and remember those who lost their lives by participating in the Ride to Remember and laying a wreath on the memorial grounds. Our office has formed a team to run in the Memorial Marathon, and will be raising money to serve and support the museum. As an act of kindness, we will be volunteering at the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma to help stock shelves and distribute food to hungry Oklahomans.
I encourage all Oklahomans – as individuals, groups or businesses – to get involved as www.okstandard.org. Sign up and take the challenge. Talk to your children about what the Oklahoma Standard means. Tell people about it on Facebook and Twitter. Spread the word and remind people what it means to be an Oklahoman.