We Remember…and so Should Oklahoma’s Children
April 19th is a day Oklahomans will always remember. We owe that in large part to responsive government officials who possessed foresight to ensure we remember “those who were killed, those who survived, and those changed forever.”
The tragedy stemmed from an extremist domestic terrorist who detonated a truck filled with explosives in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 Oklahomans, including 19 children, 15 of which were in the America’s Kids Day Care Center, and three pregnant women. An estimated 646 people were in the building. Five of the casualties came from outside the building, along with countless injured and traumatized.
In the decade after the bombing, schools were criticized for not requiring the bombing to be covered in the curriculum of mandatory Oklahoma history classes. The state’s Priority Academic Student Skills did not require students learn about the bombing. On April 6, 2010, Gov. Brad Henry signed a law requiring the tragedy be part of the curriculums for Oklahoma, U.S., and world history classes.
Governor Henry said, as he signed the bill, “Although the events of April 19, 1995 may be etched in our minds and in the minds of Oklahomans who remember that day, we have a generation of Oklahomans that has little to no memory of the events of that day. We owe it to the victims, the survivors. and all of the people touched by this tragic event to remember April 19, 1995 and understand what it meant and still means to this state and this nation.”
The terrorist, from his twisted point of view, believed that the bomb attack was a “win” for him, saying before his execution that the score was 168 to one, noting he extinguished 168 lives, and we can only execute him once.
That is what hatred creates; a villain who knows children will be harmed by his act, and then does it anyway.
This was not the first tragedy to affect our state, and it unfortunately will likely not the last. Oklahoma has experienced heartbreak from natural disasters and manmade devastation: events caused by willful acts of hatred, racism, anti-government sentiments, or whatever motivation must not be forgotten, nor have the proper lessons taught about these individuals.
State lawmakers and Governor Henry saw to that with the Murrah bombing, but other events also need proper discussion.
It was 75 years before a state commission was created to study the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre. In 1996, state Rep. Don Ross and Sen. Maxine Horner wrote and passed legislation authorizing formation of the Oklahoma Commission to Study the Tulsa Race Riot of 1921.
From that, leaders like Sen. Judy Eason McIntyre and Rep. Jabar Shumate wrote legislation requiring the massacre be taught but did not see this become law. Finally, Sen. Kevin Matthews and other Oklahoma leaders announced just last year the state was moving forward with embedding the story of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre into the curriculum of all Oklahoma schools through State Department of Education policy.
The lesson of all this is “those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” While history’s mistakes might make us uncomfortable, we must learn the lessons the mistakes taught us. Only by doing that will future generations know and understand the reasons for those mistakes and ensure they are never repeated.