Sixteen years ago today. Sudden, horrific, galvanizing. That day marked the beginning of a new Oklahoma City. The nation and the world turned its eyes to Oklahoma City that day, most for the first time. What they saw was something unprecedented in the history of our nation. The largest and most deadly and destructive terrorist attack ever undertaken on our soil.
That wasn't all they saw. As the attention of the world stayed focused on Oklahoma City, the rest of what was revealed was a city of depth, caring, compassion and sacrifice. A community of hard working, giving people willing to drop what they were doing in order to help. Our city, that was once considered a dusty backwater, was re-invented in the media's lens. So long we'd been the butt of a joke, a punchline synonomous with tornadoes and trailer homes, but once everyone got here, things weren't what they expected. We were smart, thoughtful, and dedicated. A great American diamond in the rough. No, we weren't a top ten tourist destination, just a rock solid place to live, work and raise a family.
The praise poured in from every angle. "How could we have missed it?"' they wondered. "Why didn't we know?" For the first time in the city's history people were saying good things, positive things about Oklahoma City.
The City I grew up in was a portrait of self loathing. "Action City" people would sneer as they left for Dallas, Denver, anywhere else. Our populace was the proud owner of quite possibly the worlds most ingrained inferiority complex. This town was nothing, had nothing and we couldn't wait to get the hell out. What changed?
We finally got a little positive feedback. Claire was nice to Allison, pulled her hair back, added a little mascara and when they came out of the bathroom everything was different. You could see our face. And after looking in the mirror, we all started to realize what we had, right under our feet, all around us, every day of our lives.
Our city fathers, as much as many would like to malign them, also played a huge part. Downtown had to be revitalized, and the money pouring in due to the distruction wrought by the bombing became just the foundation. MAPS was devised and sold. We took a chance and made an investment in our city. "Private money will follow!" they said. "We deserve it!", they said. "It will change our city!", they said. Home run. We raised the money, spent it wisely and remade the core of our city. We all know the rest. Private money followed 5 to1 and Bricktown/Midtown/Downtown was (re)born.
But it all started on this day sixteen years ago. The city that Forbes raves about, that is in the NBA Play-offs, that is the Natural Gas capitol of the world, that makes the top ten in every positive poll done around the country was born on this day sixteen years ago. It was painful, messy and difficult, but it revealed our true colors to the world. The ladies in the audience can speak to whether that sounds like childbirth or not, but it does to me. Our town, my town, was re-born. And with piles of great attention, lots of love, hard work and money we have raised a city up. It was always here, waiting to be discovered. The world recognized it, and showed it to us. It was so close all those years we couldn't see it. All we needed was a little attention. For someone to be nice to us, because we let them.
This day will always be one of sorrow and remembrence for many in our community, and rightfully so. But for me, in my own mind, this is a day to rejoice, to celebrate the beginning of the NEW Oklahoma City. I love this city. LOVE IT! And April 19th is its birthday.
Thank you, we'll be in touch!