7/27/11 to 7/31/11
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
The drive from Roswell to Oklahoma City was a pretty flat and kind of dead 472 miles; lots of unwatered grass. Driving through the northern tip of Texas offered variety in the form of grazing horses and cows and the oh-so-unpleasant aromas that accompany them. I did get a little excited when I drove by a roadside marker noting the Chisholm Trail. “I teach about that!” I thought to myself. But there was nothing to show for it except a bent up sign and textbook details I couldn’t even remember.
The highlight of this leg of my road trip was spending time with my cousin Shannon and her two amazing kids. Shannon and I last saw each other 25-30 years ago, but the initial bear hug when we first laid eyes on one another brought back a flood of joy and memories from a time that once seemed distant and forgotten.
And can I tell you how much I enjoyed my second cousins? Cassidy, who is 14, is as chill as they come. She is quiet, but witty, and based on her taste for classic rock, has an old, hippie soul (just
Me, my second cousins Cassidy and Jackson, and my cousin Shannon
like her mom and grandma). Cassidy broke out her guitar and played for me some of her favorites, as well as an original classical piece she is composing. Her fingers danced across those strings like magic.
Jackson is a six-year old force to reckon with. He is super smart and affectionate and loving; often coming over and placing his face against my face while giving me a big hug. I can’t even begin to describe his talent and imagination when it comes to Legos. He had a whole selection of creations—from Ipods and cameras to dragons and spaceships.
What a great set of kids.
We all went together to visit the Oklahoma bombing memorial and museum which told the story of the 1995 bombing of the OK federal building. This was extra special to me because Shannon was not only in Oklahoma during the bombing, but worked for FEMA during the clean-up and search and rescue operations. This was her city that was bombed.
I didn’t realize how powerful that bomb was. It shattered windows of over 130 of the surrounding buildings and was heard and felt over 5 miles away. I think the museum was
one of the best I have ever been to. The tour takes you back to the morning of the bombing, moments before the bomb exploded, and has you experience the bombing as if you were there. You sit in a conference room and listen to an actual recording from a hearing that was taking place that dreadful morning.
Then there is an explosion…
The lights flicker off and 168 faces appear on a screen—victims of the bombing.
When the doors of the conference room open, the next area of the museum recreates the chaos of the morning. News broadcasts and sounds of that morning fill the air while you walk through displays of wreckage and rubble. Shoes, eyeglasses, keys, toys, desk nic-nacs—all showcased with the bricks and debris.
Goosebumps and tears.
The rest of the museum told of the rescue and recovery efforts, as well as the capture and trial of the men responsible. The way the city and the nation came together during this tragedy was a tribute to the American spirit. The museum also paid homage to these inspiring heroes.
The rest of my time in Oklahoma was spent
John, Dave and I
At a gastropub in Oklahoma City
with my good friends, the Lopezes. Dave and I were pledge brothers and roommates in Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity and have maintained a close friendship. His brother, John, was in the USC marching band.
I was really looking forward to running the Dirty 30, a 5k mudrun, with John and Dave, but my doctor (and injured back) advised against it. I was definitely disappointed, but enjoyed the festivities anyway.
The Lopez family is an amazing example of obtaining and living the American dream. John Lopez (Senior) worked his way up in the McDonald’s Corporation and the meat manufacturing industry to create Lopez Foods, one of the largest Hispanic manufacturing businesses in the world. He and his wife, Pat, also instilled in their children a strong work ethic and an even stronger commitment to family. Their beautiful home is a tribute to his years of hard work and the family that enriches their life.
The Lopezes always show me the best time in Oklahoma, and this visit was no different. I enjoyed a relaxing swim in the family pool, followed by a decadent dinner at Michael’s Grill. I especially enjoyed the conversation and the fine selection of wines
Relaxing in the pool
With John Lopez (Sr.). We talked a lot about his father's involvement in the battle of the bulge.
we put down on my last night in town.
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