From the Worldwide Faith News archives www.wfn.org
OKLAHOMA CITY PRESBYTERIANS PONDER LIFE AFTER THE BOMB
05 May 1996 13:18:51
95214 OKLAHOMA CITY PRESBYTERIANS PONDER LIFE AFTER THE BOMB
by Alexa Smith
OKLAHOMA CITY--Brian Snyder says it is hard to remember exactly what
happened on the morning of April 19.
He was at the desk of the downtown branch of Oklahoma City's public
library, located about half a block away from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal
There was a boom. The light casements fell. The steel doorway
twisted and collapsed. And then there were tremors, moving outward from
the edge of the city's downtown for, residents say, nearly 40 miles.
"It was over before I had time to be scared. ... I was shocked," said
the 25-year-old member of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, who does not
consider himself a victim of the bombing since he was uninjured.
Snyder is confused by the kind of malice that went into building and
igniting the bomb. And, he said, he is confused by the kind of hatred that
can literally drive people crazy, if speculation about what motivated the
bombing is true.
He is not alone in puzzling over what life will be like after the
Retired Presbyterian minister the Rev. Gene Hodges of Norman, Okla.,
said the explosion has left him lonely. His 54-year-old son, Gene, died in
the Murrah building, leaving behind his wife and four children.
"I feel terribly lonely, not angry at all. Not revengeful," said
Hodges, who learned of the explosion on television. "He was my only child,
my only son, and we were very close."
Hodges, 82, said he will live the rest of his life quietly. But the
bombing has only reinforced his conviction that each individual life
matters -- what goals are set, what choices are made. "We should have
learned [from the bombing] that it's awfully, terribly important what
people believe in.
"They're gonna believe in something," Hodges said, insisting that
Christian witness offers an alternative to vengeance, greed and abdicating
the responsibility that goes with having personal rights.
Goodness, he said, cannot be legislated "into people." They must
learn it for themselves.
"I'd give anything, of course, if it were possible for me to take
Gene's place. I've had my time in life. ... He had so much to look forward
to," said Hodges.
Thirty-five employees in the Office of Housing and Urban Development
(HUD) were killed. Three others lost an eye. Presbyterian Sara Maxwell,
also a HUD employee, was in a training session on another floor in the
federal building's southwest corner -- the corner that did not collapse in
"The [partition-style] training room walls didn't fall down" Maxwell
said, though she was thrown to the floor in the blast. "We didn't know
what happened," she said, adding that when she and her colleagues exited
the building by a stairwell, the southwest corner was intact.
"I don't feel anger ... dismay' would be a better word," Maxwell told
the Presbyterian News Service. "I haven't ever been the type of person to
get angry at God. I never have," she added. Maxwell said she accepts as a
mystery why some are spared while others die -- an inexplicable dilemma she
remembers her soldier-uncle recounting.
Maxwell is back at work part-time now in a temporary HUD office,
though many HUD employees will not return until mid-August. "I'm doing as
well as can be expected. I talk with a lot of friends at my church, my
minister, friends I grew up with in Illinois," she said, adding that
resuming a regular routine helps.
"I just know he [God] is the supreme power ... not that he was the
one who caused the explosion. But I think he manages his flock to the best
end now that it has happened," said Maxwell, who is a member of First
Presbyterian Church in downtown Oklahoma City.
Snyder said he is one of a number of people leaving Oklahoma City in
the next few months. He intended to move anyway ... but the bombing has
motivated Snyder and a number of others to leave sooner.
"It all feels tainted to me. ... If I had real deep connections, I
might be more willing to stick it out," said Snyder, who is heading east to
be closer to family. He says that anytime he mentions living in Oklahoma
City, he'll inevitably be asked about the bombing.
What has puzzled Snyder in the aftermath of the bombing is the buses
driving by with tourists -- like grandmothers with their grandchildren --
stopping to snap pictures of each other near Murrah building rubble.
Now back at the library desk, Snyder is relieved the Murrah building
is gone. It was, he said, becoming an "eerie" reminder -- though it has
sensitized him to what he calls his American arrogance --
that though others in the world may have to cope with violence, it could
never happen here.
"It's amazing what people get used to ... and what [they] never get
For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
phone 502-569-5504 fax 502-569-8073
E-mail PCUSA.NEWS@pcusa.org Web page: http://www.pcusa.org
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