When he graduated from theology school, Jon R. Wallace carried in hand a piece of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
Wallace was director of social services for The Salvation Army Tulsa Area Command at the time of the April 19, 1995, bombing. Upon arrival in Oklahoma City that day, he was appointed disaster social services director for The Salvation Army's bombing response effort in Oklahoma City.
And ever since that day, Wallace has carried with him a personal responsibility to stand against intolerance and violence in all its forms. On Friday, the Denver resident is scheduled to read the mission statement of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum during the 18th Anniversary Remembrance Ceremony at First United Methodist Church.
Wallace, 53, is a regional voluntary agencies liaison with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. He completed studies for a master of divinity degree and graduated the Iliff School of Theology in Denver in June. He is seeking ordination in the United Church of Christ (Congregational) Church.
“The Memorial Mission Statement reminds me that, as a responder, a social worker and a minister I must stand against hatred and violence,” he said, “and, when called, help share my skills, abilities and heart to bring comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity to communities affected by terrorism and tragedy.
“My thoughts will be with my Salvation Army team members who gave so much of themselves in all areas of the response and relief effort. My thoughts will especially be with the families and friends of those killed in the bombing and the survivors and responders — all very much part of my extended Oklahoma City family.”
The mission statement includes “May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.”
Nearly 18 years separated the blasts at the Murrah Building and Monday's explosions at the Boston Marathon. But some things aren't entirely separated by time, Wallace said. The piece of the Murrah Building given to Wallace by workers at the Social Security office is a tangible reminder he carries with him from Oklahoma City.
But there are many other reminders.
Upon hearing of what had happened at the marathon, Wallace was shocked as were so many others. And his heart went out to the people in Boston.
“I then experienced a sense of calm, which might sound strange,” he said, “but I think that calm came because I knew that the injured were immediately being helped by spectators and emergency services alike.
“When these things happen, people, usually perfect strangers to the injured, immediately pitch in to help. Just like what happened in Oklahoma City. I just knew, felt, that help was right there … so I began to pray for what I knew must be going on in Boston.”