Blake Bussey and his big brother Jacob went from chair to chair, looking for the perfect one.
They finally chose Jamie Genzer's.
Neither the boys nor their mom, Allie, knew her. They didn't know she was a brown-haired, broad-smiling mother of two. They didn't know she loved to sing. They didn't know she was working as a loan officer at the Federal Employees Credit Union on the day that a bomb outside the Murrah Building killed her.
Still, the Bussey boys wanted to leave their bibs on her chair after running the kids' marathon at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.
“This is the purpose of it,” Allie Bussey said standing amid the field of chairs at the bombing memorial. “We're running for a cause, and this is the cause.
“It brings meaning to the marathon.”
On the day of this race of remembrance, there is no place quite like the chairs. Thousands of runners passed through the memorial on their way to and from the shuttles, the gear drop and the finish line. Many slowed as they passed the chairs, and some stopped and looked from the sidewalk.
And then, there were those who walked up onto the grass and into the chairs. They came to leave a memento from the race. A bib. A shirt. A medal.
They came to this sacred soil to remember.
That's what Ewell and Dadie Condron did.
The couple ran in the Memorial Marathon for the first time a year ago, Ewell doing the half marathon, Dadie being on a relay team. Not until afterward did they learn about the tributes at the chairs.
They decided this year that they'd run in honor of victims whose lives were somehow mirrored theirs.
“He picked somebody who was his age at the time of the bombing,” Dadie said.
“And should be my age now,” Ewell said, tears welling in his eyes.
“I picked a 37-year-old mom of two,” Dadie said, tears welling, too.
He ran for LaKesha Richardson Levy, while she ran for Peggy Louise Holland. And after they finished, the Condrons came to the chairs to leave bibs and medals for the two women, whose chairs are only a few feet apart.
“We've already got a medal for us,” Ewell said. “I've done it before. She's done it before.
“We'll leave one for them.”
They left more than that. Small pieces of white paper were taped on the back of their bibs.
The one on Dadie's bib fluttered a bit on the back of Peggy's chair.
“Today, I went 13.1 miles in honor of you,” it said. “I was only a young college student at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing of the Murrah Building. Today I am a 37-year-old mother of two daughters. It breaks my heart that your life was taken so early. I cry that you were stolen from your children. I pray for your family today. I promise to remember you and be thankful for each day that I am blessed with. Peggy Louise Holland — may you rest in peace.”
Go to the chairs on race day, and you'll see a bit of everything. There are photos being taken, tears being shed and prayers being said.
But there are also smiles.
That was the case at Mickey Maroney's chair. The Secret Service agent's daughter, Alice, was part of a group that stood around her dad's chair talking and laughing.
“He wouldn't want it any other way,” she said.
She wore a gray shirt that matched everyone else's. On the front were the words “PIG SOOIE” and a picture of the Arkansas Razorback, a nod to her dad's football days at Arkansas. He played football on the '64 national championship team.
Team Pig Sooie — Alice's husband, Bob; her sons Zac and Cody; and their friends David Lorenz and Andy North — finished the five-person relay in under 4 hours.
Even though Mickey was always in shape, he was never a runner.
“Heavens no,” Alice said, laughing.
Bob said, “He'd be making fun of us right now. He probably is making fun of us.”
But they left one of the relay medals with the red ribbon tied around one side of his chair.
“I got an extra for him,” Bob said.
It added to the rainbow of medals — green for the full marathon, yellow for the half marathon, blue for the 5K, orange for the kids' marathon.
The Bussey boys left their orange bibs, Jacob's 52985 and Blake's 52986. Both of them had visited the memorial before with their classes from Quail Creek Elementary. But this trip was different.
“This is the first time I've got to walk on the grass,” Jacob said of the area around the chairs.
You did much more than walk, Jacob. You helped make sure that the men, women and children who died in the bombing are never forgotten.