OPINION COLUMNS

The day our world almost stopped turning

By Donna Bean | Published Saturday, August 23, 2014

There’s a song by Alan Jackson titled, “Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning?”

Donna Bean

Donna Bean

Most of us know where we were when major events in our country occurred.

When Kennedy was assassinated, I was playing with my Barbies while my mom ironed.

When Elvis’ death was announced on the radio, I was driving a 1972 Nova on U.S. 81/287 between Bellevue and Henrietta.

When Regan was shot, I was working at Royal Optical in Golden Triangle Mall in Denton.

On 9-11, I was typing classified ads here at the Messenger.

But do you remember where you were when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was blown up in Oklahoma City, on April 19, 1995?

I do. I was answering phones as the receptionist for the Messenger. One of the calls I answered that day was far from typical – it was my sister, who was frantically asking if our dad was traveling for his government job.

Fortunately, he was still on desk duty due to back surgery and was safe in his Little Rock office where he worked for the Department of Transportation/Department of Motor Carrier Safety.

My then 10-year-old nephew was home from school sick that day and was watching TV when the news broke with the story about the bombing. He knew a government building was involved, and that his PaPaw worked for the government and frequently traveled to Oklahoma City.

After a chain of phone calls to my mom, who called my dad, who called my nephew back, we all knew Dad was safe.

But the story goes a little deeper.

When Dad went through DOT school in 1986, it was located at the airport in Oklahoma City. At that time, when you graduated and went to work, they sent you away from home for your first job. Home was Bowie, and his first position was in Columbia, S.C.

They didn’t recommend asking for a transfer for a year, to make sure the agents were committed to the job. So after a year, he started watching for openings and requesting transfers – all denied until 1992, when he transferred to Little Rock.

Where Dad really wanted to transfer was Oklahoma City, where the DOT Motor Carrier Safety office had moved into the Murrah Building.

The last transfer he asked for was given to his friend and classmate, Rick Tomlin. Rick was on the phone with his wife when the bomb went off, killing him and 167 other people.

Seeing the 9-11 memorial in New York City is on my bucket list. But New York is a long way from Decatur. Oklahoma City is only three hours away.

Sad Memory

SAD MEMORY – Donna Bean, classified advertising manager at the Messenger, places a memorial at the site of the Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma City. Submitted photo

If you haven’t visited the memorial, I challenge you to. It certainly makes an impact on anyone who visits. It’s very humbling to see how life can change in an instant – and there is a realization that no one is immune to tragedy.

On Aug. 17, I visited the memorial for the third time. As in past visits, I placed a memorial on the fence in memory of those lost in the Department of Motor Carrier Safety and said a prayer of thanks that Dad did not get the transfer he had so badly wanted.

Information on the memorial – including the stories of each of the victims – is available at www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org.

Donna Bean is classified advertising manager for the Messenger.

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