Are you still going to run?
More than a year ago, I started training for the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. Given recent events, this question comes up a lot.
I grew up in Oklahoma City. When I was 8, my family moved as far north as you could go, to NW 122 and May. On weekends I'd go out for bike rides, heading still farther north to get away from it all. A few minutes up to Memorial Road and there wasn't a house around, only fields as far as you could see. Before I knew it, it was 1978. I graduated from high school and headed east for college.
Fast-forward 35 years. How things have changed. Bricktown. Jazz clubs. Flattering articles in The New York Times. My city council talks to your city council to find out how we can be like you. Many of my high school classmates have settled here, raised families and become leaders in the community. My dad lives in Edmond. And what's that I see in the sports pages? A professional basketball team? Thunder Up!
But no Oklahomans need reminding of the tears that watered the flowers of progress. On April 19, 1995, my father was walking back to his office downtown when a terrorist bomb blew up the Murrah Building. My dad wasn't hurt. Not so lucky were 168 others.
On Sunday, I and thousands of others will be running for them. The course will take me near my elementary school, past my high school, down streets of houses of old friends, through neighborhoods I knew well as a child. Up until last week, the race was a voyage through time, a marathon of memory. It's now a fight for the future.
Now more than ever, this race must be run. Everyone, from the smallest child in the Kids Marathon to the oldest spectator on the course, must come together as one. We will show the world that simple human decency, empathy and compassion unite all mankind. Those who seek to do us harm will be brought to justice. Their cowardice and evil will only strengthen our resolve.
These are things that I and millions of Americans everywhere affirm as principles independent of any faith, race or creed. We won't give in to fear, ignorance, superstition and bigotry. We will run harder and stronger, cheer louder and longer, live freer and hold our liberty dearer, than we ever have before. We will do this because it's who we are. We will do this because we're Americans.
Sunday, I will join more than 20,000 athletes in that most rare of occurrences, a sporting event that transcends sports. Buoyed by our own emotions and the support from all of you, we will run like the wind, striving with every step to show the world the indomitable spirit of America.
Am I still going to run? Heck no. I am going to fly.
Fagin is a professor of computer science at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo.