I was driving on Interstate 270 in Columbus, Ohio, listening to my favorite talk-radio station, when a news alert interrupted the otherwise mind-numbing droning of the host. The alert indicated that an explosion had taken place in Oklahoma City, and authorities weren’t sure the cause. Something instinctively told me to cancel my appointments for the day, which I did, and to head to the house and turn on the news.
Seeing the devastation, my heart ached, and hearing shortly thereafter that it was a fellow American responsible for the senseless loss of life, I wept openly. But, over the course of the next few minutes, hours and days, I saw the miraculous. The whole world witnessed the incredible fortitude and inner strength of Oklahomans.
I knew immediately there was, and is, something remarkably special about Oklahoma. Little did I know that just a couple years later, I would be relocating my family to Oklahoma City ” and that has been an immeasurable blessing.
Oklahomans have experienced some of the worst tragedies Americans have faced. Whether it be the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing, the tornadoes, drought years or, recently, the floods, Oklahomans always come together to meet need. When there is disaster, partisanship goes by the wayside and Oklahomans rally together as a beacon of light for the whole nation to see.
Oklahoma City is a microcosm of the generosity of Oklahomans. City Rescue Mission, for example, should be a tourist destination because the facility has been bought and paid for by private contributions rather than government subsidy, and is staffed by those with an enviable passion for the “least among us.” Oklahomans have recognized a need to address the issue of homelessness and have done so with a facility and operation that is a model for other shelters across the nation.
Another example of how incredibly generous Oklahomans are when needs are presented is that of Habitat for Humanity. The Central Oklahoma Habitat operation is stellar, providing limited-income families with a safe, secure place to call a home of their own.
Shiloh Camp, Whiz Kids, the Pershing Center, Positive Tomorrows and countless other nonprofit organizations are conceived in the hearts of Oklahomans and are given life by the boundless generosity of men and women who truly care about our future, as well as our present. In the face of incredible adversity, these community-based organizations exist and thrive. Why? Because it is the Oklahoma way.
In the most recent round of floods, sadly, Oklahomans lost their lives. Yet, in the midst of that sorrow, watching the news coverage of roads giving way and creeks spilling over and flooding highways, something deep within me was at peace. The duality of my existence was being exercised: experiencing fear and grief for the loss of Oklahomans, yet, at the same moment, feeling confident that our fellow citizens are fortunate that the floods occurred here, where we are prepared to meet the tragedy head-on.
Occasionally we need to take inventory and see just how our cup “runneth over” with men and women who make Oklahoma what it is: The best place to live in this nation.
Black is a political consultant and former talk show host living in Edmond.