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A day of contrasts

April 20, 2010 - Mike Donahey

April 19 is a day celebrated with much happiness in our family. It is our daughter's birthday. This year Elisabeth turned 26. We celebrated with pizza at Zeno's. At home we had cake, made by second daughter Annalisa.
Elisabeth will graduate from the University of Iowa School of Pharmacy next month, followed by a residency at a Chicago area hospital. Elisabeth has a bright future and our family will look forward to sharing in her accomplishments. Annalisa will graduate from high school next year. She too has a promising future.
But in many homes April 19 is a day of much sadness and grief. Those are the homes who lost loved ones 15 years ago when the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City was bombed. It claimed the lives of 168 men, women and children. Until 9/11, it was the worst terrorist attack in our country.
I visited the memorial nine years ago. Striking to me were the 19 children killed. They were in the facility's child care center. The parents of those children will never experience seeing their son or daughter in a Little League game, compete in dance or a spelling bee, or be involved with Girl or Boy Scouts. They can only wonder what might have been.
I recall looking out at the rows of empty chairs, the memorials signature point, which represented the many federal workers who died that day. They were just regular people doing their jobs. Haunting were the displays of soot covered briefcases, family pictures and desk mementos found later. Unforgettable to me was hearing a tape recording of a meeting in progress only to hear it interuppted with the ferocious, lethal blast.
"They were men and women who had devoted their careers to helping the elderly and disabled, supporting our veterans and enforcing our laws. They were good neighbors and good friends,” wrote former President Clinton in a April 18 New York Times editorial.
"Those who survived endured terrible pain and loss," wrote Clinton. He cited the words of a mother of three whose husband had been killed on Pam Am Flight 103 in 1988 who told family members: "The loss you feel must not paralyze your own lives. Instead, you must try to pay tribute to your loved ones by continuing to do all the things they left undone, thus ensuring they did not die in vain."
Clinton believes many of the attack's survivors have done exactly that. He also commended the people and leaders of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and the many firefighters and others who came across America to help them.
Regardless of how one may feel about Clinton, his editorial is well written and compelling, especially relative to violence against government employees and elected officials, which again has reared its ugly head.
"Civic virtue can include harsh criticism, protest, even civil disobedience. But not violence or its advocacy. That is the bright line that protects our freedom. It has held for a long time, since President George Washington called out 13,000 troops in response to the Whiskey Rebellion. Fifteen years ago, the line was crossed in Oklahoma City. In the current climate, with so many threats against the president, members of Congress and other public servants, we owe it to the victims of Oklahoma City and those who survived and responded so bravely, not to cross it again.”
Clinton's editorial can be found at


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