One Perspective: This was the week to remember

Ted Streuli, The Daily Record Newswire

This was the week to remember.

In Boston, they remembered Krystle Campbell, Lu Lingzi, Martin Richard and Officer Sean Collier.

In West, Texas, there was a memorial service Thursday for the 14 people killed there, 11 of whom were first responders.

In Oklahoma City, they remembered 1995. On Sunday, that remembrance will include a marathon, A Run to Remember, and among the participants will be runners who were turned away from the finish line in Boston.

We do this because we must remember, we must mourn, we must look and wonder and find some way, any way that keeps it from happening again. And in our remembering of the newest, freshest, most open wound, we remember all the others in the way that when we attend a funeral and remember that one we cannot help but remember the others we have lost. We grieve for one; we grieve for all.

We will remember the tragedy of the Murrah building bombing and West, and Boston. Unavoidable then is our grief over Newtown, Aurora, 9-11, Columbia, Challenger, and all the others.
We are good at death. I was a reporter covering Johnson Space Center when the Space Shuttle Columbia fell apart and seven astronauts died a decade ago, on Feb. 1, 2003. Three days later, a memorial service at Johnson Space Center drew thousands: the astronaut corps, all JSC employees, Washington dignitaries, NASA Administrator Sean O’Keefe, a Navy rabbi, President George W. Bush. Only the press members who routinely covered NASA were allowed into the ceremony, about six of us, and I looked down the row, briefly making eye contact with a young woman from the Orlando Sentinel and it was enough to know that she was thinking what I was thinking, what we all were thinking: I must work. I must do my job. I must tell this story. I may not cry, but I must cry.

Navy fighters flew overhead in the missing man formation, the bell tolled seven times, our pens shook erratically above our notebooks. The president was eloquent: “The grief is heavy, our nation shares in your sorrow and in your pride,” he said to relatives. “And today we remember not only one moment of tragedy but seven lives of great purpose and achievement.”
More importantly, he said this:

“And to the children who miss your mom or dad so much today, you need to know, they love you, and that love will always be with you. They were proud of you, and you can be proud of them for the rest of your life. The final days of their own lives were spent looking down upon this earth, and now, on every continent, in every land they can see, the names of these astronauts, known and remembered.”

We did death well that day.

On April 23, 1995, President Bill Clinton spoke at the prayer service here. “You have lost too much, but you have not lost everything,” he said. “And you have certainly not lost America, for we will stand with you for as many tomorrows as it takes.”

Indeed. We will stand with Boston and West, with Houston and New York. With New Orleans and Galveston, Los Angeles and San Francisco, with the families of those on Pan Am 103, the 581 dead when ammonium nitrate exploded in Texas City, the astronauts of Apollo 1, the basketball players from OSU.

On Thursday in West, bagpipes droned Amazing Grace, played by members of the Emerald Society, honoring the lives of the first responders who went to put out a fire and walked into an explosion. They remembered their own, they remembered our own, we will each time remember them all.

We’re good at death.