Three months ago, the world looked at Oklahoma with sympathy and compassion after killer storms ripped apart homes and lives.
Now, after three teens in a small Oklahoma town allegedly murdered an Australian-born baseball player, the view has changed.
There is outrage. There is disgust. There is scorn. The senseless slaying in Duncan has caused an outcry across the country and beyond. It even prompted Australian officials to propose a boycott of America. Don't travel there. Don't send your children there.
Our plea: please reconsider.
Those boys who police say gunned down Chris Lane are not representative of their community or our state.
We are as shocked and infuriated as anyone at what happened. A catcher on the East Central University baseball team shot in the back while jogging. A 22-year-old randomly targeted by three punks who allegedly decided they wanted to kill someone because they were bored. This sort of thing isn't supposed to happen anywhere. But Oklahoma? Duncan, Oklahoma?
It just doesn't make sense.
The road where Chris was shot and left to die is in the northeast corner of Duncan. The houses there are red brick, the fences wood slat, the lawns well kept.
And yet, now along the road running through this quiet neighborhood is a makeshift memorial. The spot where Chris was killed is now marked with flowers and a white takeout container turned placard.
“Christopher Lane — God Bless You,” it reads.
We are all too familiar with makeshift memorials popping up in quiet neighborhoods rocked by tragedy. We saw it happen time and again in the days after those massive tornadoes tore through our state. They appeared in Bethel Acres and Carney, Newcastle and Moore, El Reno and Oklahoma City.
The seven crosses erected in front of what used to be Plaza Towers Elementary are still a heart-wrenching sight. Each carries the name of a child killed inside the school when it was leveled by the massive tornado that churned through Moore.
What happened there and elsewhere prompted an outpouring of support from everywhere. And we do mean everywhere. Help came not only from all over the state, not only from neighboring states, not only from across the U.S. but also from around the world. People could not comprehend what had happened, and they wanted to do something — anything — to help.
Now, that feeling of disbelief about something that has happened in Oklahoma has returned.
Australians, in particular, have reacted strongly to this killing. You would expect as much from Chris Lane's homeland, and yet, the raw emotions are difficult to stomach.
Tim Fischer, Australia's former Deputy Prime Minister, went on CNN earlier this week to voice to the outrage that he has seen there.
“There is deep seated anger,” he said.
It's easy to see why he would warn Australians about traveling to America, about sending their children to study or play sports America, but here's hoping this doesn't scare away kids like Chris. He had a dream of coming to the United States to study, and sports were his avenue.
He wasn't the first.
Heavens, our sports landscape is dotted by folks who did exactly the same thing — and stayed.
Brian Harvey came to the U.S. from England to play college soccer. After playing internationally, he settled in Oklahoma. He will soon start his 27th season as the soccer coach at Oklahoma City University.
Par Nilsson left Sweden to play golf at Oklahoma State in 2000. Earlier this summer, he returned to Stillwater to be the assistant coach for the Cowgirl golf team.
Jozsef Szendrei came to America from Hungary as a high school exchange student. After two years of junior college basketball, he played at Oklahoma. He has been a strength and conditioning coach there since 2009.
Maybe Chris Lane would've stayed, too.
What happened to him is a tragedy, a tempest that has touched Oklahomans. We are outraged. We are disgusted.
Another storm has scarred our state.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at (405) 475-4125. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK, follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok or view her personality page at newsok.com/jennicarlson.