Steve Lackmeyer: A heart-to-heart talk with the people of Sweden
Sometime this week the good people of Sweden will be listening to me discussing the Oklahoma City bombing on their equivalent of National Public Radio.
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I'm not sure how many of them will actually understand what I'm saying, since the Swedish language is very different tongue than English. Nor am I quite certain how this interview about the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing will play out in a world so far away from Oklahoma.
I'm still unsure why I even agreed to the interview. It was requested in the wake of the weekend rampage in Oslo, Norway, in which what appears to be a lone attacker bombed the capital and then shot up a youth camp. The echoes of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building popped up pretty quick — and it's difficult not to draw comparisons between the alleged killer in Norway and mass murderer Timothy McVeigh.
I reported on that 1995 attack. I've covered the recovery of downtown ever since. But I've always been a bit skittish about the whole thing. A week into the tragedy I fled Oklahoma City, naively thinking I could escape the story. On the second anniversary of the bombing I literally lost control of my emotional well being — I just couldn't bear to watch the procession of victims' relatives and survivors marching down Robinson Avenue.
I've avoided getting involved in bombing coverage ever since. I've visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial only once, and that was with the kind accommodation of director Kari Watkins allowing me to visit after hours.
My 9-year-old son knows the bombing occurred. He asks questions about it. To date I've yet to answer those questions or take him to the memorial.
But 16 years after McVeigh took the lives of 168 people. I agreed to talk about it with people halfway around the world. I'm not sure why. But the questions asked by Agneta Furvik with the Swedish Broadcasting Corp. left me remembering why Oklahoma City's response that dreadful day was so incredible, and why the memorial is such sacred ground.