death • demise • destruction • end • passing • loss • slaughter • eternal rest • quietness • murder • assassination • execution • termination • eradication • massacre • finish • extinct
Every single day, we slaughter beautiful creatures, spoil beautiful relationships and disrupt beautiful land. Despite good intentions, we are naturally destructive people. As an accomplice to the Dark Angel, we steal the breath of the innocent. It is evidence of our narcissism and testimony to our egotism. We act as if we live in a consequence free environment, but the bug on our windshield and the family that we are too busy to call, fall victim to our insensitivity. However, amongst the beautiful things that we destroy, there are the few, the strong and the determined that survive us.
When entering Oklahoma, we visit Chickasaw National Recreational Area and talk with a ranger of Cherokee nationality. He grew up with a great respect and understanding for the land and explains why there is no fee for the park. Two Chickasaw Chiefs signed a treaty with the National Government, handing over the land with one condition; this area must always remain free to the public. We leave the park prematurely when an entourage of fourth graders disrupts the tranquility of nature. Driving away, a butterfly splatters against our windshield and its ethereal beauty is lost forever.
In Oklahoma City, a memorial of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building stands as two bookends. Bronze gates frame the sky in front of us and we read:
We come here to remember those who were killed,
Those who survived and those changed forever.
May all who leave here know the impact of violence.
May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.
To the right of us, there is a hill of empty chairs; 168 seats symbolize the friends, family and loved ones, whose names now glow in the night. Off to the left, a one hundred year old elm is given new life. The tree was once only a humble giver of shade, slowly fading toward an undignified death in the building’s parking lot. Now coined as the Survivor Tree, this tall deciduous began to flourish after the 1995 blast and is a symbol of strength and perseverance. The inscription that surrounds it reads:
The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us.
Another butterfly skims our windshield. This one seems to have survived. We stop the car and walk back to find it struggling for life on the warm pavement. It climbs my finger, but cannot fly. Its persistence reminds me that despite our thoughtless destruction, and heavy footsteps, people remain resilient. A community attacked, left in ashes, is able to move forward, and even a butterfly can escape the fatal impact of a glass windshield.