Thunder Hope: The Heartbeat of a City

by MitchellRichards

It’s good to see a city alive.

Breathing…moving…speaking…

And it’s good to hear her heart beating.

It wasn’t that long ago that I stood in front of the Murrah building a few weeks after the OKC bombing. A fence guarded the building as workers were sifting through debris. It was a sad time in our state’s history. I was in the fourth grade and remember all of the chaos and panic and confusion that came in those minutes and hours after. I also remember the hope that came in the days and weeks to follow.

Hope is a natural and organic thing, often times planted in the soil of our desperation and fear. Some seeds never sprout, swallowed up by the thorns and dried out in dirt of the earth. But every once in a while a little green sprout emerges from the soil.

For the people of Oklahoma, the seed was planted the very second the bomb went off as medical workers and random ordinary people in the area rushed to help the wounded and injured. People from all over the country began cultivating and watering the seed as they helped to join in the relief efforts. Even while the chaos of the moment was still going on around the building, the seed of hope was getting the nutrients it needed, even though we had no idea it was even there.

I went to the OKC Memorial Museum the other week when I had some spare time, and as I walked through I was overwhelmed by what I saw. I found myself fighting back tears more over the beauty of what was happening than by the tragedy. Yes, it was a horrific moment for us, and the loss of life was a very real and sad thing, but I couldn’t help but be moved by the support from everyone not involved directly. They had video clips of people saying that they needed work gloves, lights, and other materials in the following days as the rescue continued throughout the night. They immediately received gloves and any other materials they needed. For every need, there was a need met. People set up food trucks for the workers. Children from all of the country sent in paintings and drawings. The tragedy of April 19th was incredibly sad, but a city…a state…and a nation coming together to plant the seed of hope in the very place it had been ravaged was overwhelming…and just a little stronger.

Something was taken from Oklahoma City that day, and I don’t think there is a word that exists that can accurately describe what was taken.

But I do know that whatever the opposite of that word is, we have experienced that too. The opposite of desperation and hopelessness…the opposite of tragedy…fear…

Whatever it is we lost that day, we have found it again.

The city is still breathing…moving…speaking…

And on a few nights throughout the year, especially in April and May, you can hear her heart beating.

The sound of the beat comes from a small building just a few blocks where the explosion happened, The Oklahoma City Arena, where over 18,000 people are cheering on our Thunder.

I’ve never been more proud of my city than right now as I see all of this Thunder-mania going on. Everywhere you look you see people wearing shirts and jerseys, restaurants and bars are packed out and staying open late to watch the games, people who don’t know or care anything about basketball are now familiar with things like Kevin Durant’s backpack and James Harden’s beard. I watched a video of fans greeting the players when they returned at the airport after a playoff game against Dallas. They were standing out in the rain, in the thunder and lightning, and chanting a common arena chant, “O-K-C!!! O-K-C!!!! O-K-C!!!” It was truly moving.

What the Thunder have brought to our city is a sense of pride and togetherness that we have never seen before, and ever since April 19th, it’s been something our city has always needed and longed for. In sporting terms, no longer is our state divided by crimson and orange, but together in Thunder blue.

Whatever the opposite of the desperation we felt on that day in April is, we find it in our boys.

The seed of hope that was planted on the day the bomb went off is now coming into full bloom some sixteen years later, and we are the lucky ones that get to see it. Out of the tragedy that made a city fall, rises a city that now stands together. We have the scar, and we wear the scar for the world to see, but we never miss an opportunity to share the story and to share the healing. The Thunder are a manifestation of the heart of the city, proved by what transpired in the minutes after the blast.

Just feet from where the blast took place stands a tree that is now known as the survivor tree. It was heavily damaged by the blast and was almost taken down, but a group of people said that it couldn’t be. I think they saw the potential within its broken branches. Now, the tree is the focus and center piece of hope inside the Memorial. The tree is now over 90 years old and was there well before that tragic day, and will be there for a long time after. Not only is the tree a lasting reminder of that day, but also a mirror of progression and growth to the future…our future. Seedlings from the survivor tree are taken and distributed to parks and various other places, almost as a way of saying our hope continues on, not just here in the heart of the city, but every where these seedlings are planted.

There is a seedling planted in each seat in the OKC Arena, in each rowdy restaurant and bar goer, and in the heart of each and every Thunder fan. I will never get tired of hearing the O-K-C chant, because to me it’s more than three letters, it’s the sound of hope and the sound of our city’s heartbeat.

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