Move and be moved – Part 2

by Steve Brock on May 31, 2013

We seem to have this inexorable pull toward places and situations that move us.

Gateway at Memorial“Awaken, O my soul” is our cry from the depths of our being. We live so much of our lives in a state of bland routine that when something touches us, it stands out and makes us take notice.

Memorial ViewpointThough I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum a few weeks ago almost by accident, it was no accident that the place moved me and my colleagues. Artists, architects, historians, construction workers, landscapers and others have artfully rendered earth, water, plants, concrete, metal and the remaining buildings in such a way that the import of that place reaches beyond our jaded facades and resonates with something deep within us.

In such places, we willingly give to the scene our most precious of resources, our attention. We heed the messages taught there. We listen. We learn. But in places like this, we learn with our senses as much as with our minds.

Victim NicheWhile I wandered through the memorial, I looked around me and took in all the visuals elements. Next, I noticed the sounds: the background rumble of nearby traffic, the low, solemn voices of other visitors, the whispers of wind and water.

Taste and smell didn’t get their fair share this day, but I more than compensated with touch. As I stood at one end of the reflecting pool, at the suggestion of my colleague, I reached down into the pool’s water deep enough to wet my whole palm. I then turned around and placed it on the cool metal structure – one of two book-ended entry gates – behind me.

Hand prints on wallMy palm print on the dark metal joined dozens of others still visible on this day and likely thousands of others, long since evaporated. They mirror the painted hand prints that surround an area outside the museum where children can leave their own messages in chalk.

Hand printsOn this day, a few moments after leaving my palm print, I walk over to the painted hand prints and noticed a young girl finishing her message in chalk: “You will be in my prayers 4ever.”

Girls and chalkHer words will last only slightly longer than my hand print. What we leave behind rarely lasts. But by engaging this place through our senses, what is now imprinted in us both from our time here likely will.

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Move and be moved – Part 1

by Steve Brock on May 23, 2013

I’d heard of the memorial and vaguely recalled the past events that led to its construction. But until last week, it meant little to me.

Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum Just a few days before the devastating tornado touched down a dozen or so miles from there this week, I stood amidst the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. I came not so much to pay tribute to those killed on April 19, 1995 when the rental truck driven by Timothy McVeigh exploded, cutting short the life of 168 people.

Oklahoma City National Memorial and MuseumInstead, I arrived simply because my work meetings on my business trip there had ended early. My four colleagues and I were looking for something of interest until our plane departed four hours later. We decided on the memorial for reasons that stemmed more out of a lack of other choice than intention.

Oklahoma City National Memorial and MuseumAs we approached the memorial, we took in the murmured whispers of other visitors, the  dark arches that bookend the black reflecting pool and the ochre colored building that now houses the site’s museum. Minutes later, we stood on the curved overlook listening to the park ranger as he filled in details that added incredible meaning to the space around us.

Listening to the RangerHe told of the rental truck loaded with enough fertilizer that, when ignited, left a crater seven feet deep and 27 feet wide – the distance, he pointed out, between two trees across from us. He explained about McVeigh’s getaway car parked at the time to the left of where we now stood, left unattended and unmoved for a week before the blast.

Oklahoma City National Memorial and MuseumHe told of how the axle of the blown up rental truck landed over a block away, smashing a car but not harming the person inside. How that axle’s serial number led to identifying the truck which led to finding its rental location and a description of McVeigh. How by not having license plates on the getaway car, McVeigh was pulled over an hour and a half north of here and arrested not for anything related to the explosion but because of an unregistered concealed gun they found on him when they pulled him over. How the FBI pieced it all together so quickly and made the connections that led to McVeigh’s eventual execution six years later.

Chairs of the VictimsThe ranger also recounted the personal loss in what is still the deadliest terrorist attack on US soil carried out by its own citizens. He pointed out the 168 bronze and glass chairs on the lawn across from us, one for each victim, the small ones representing the children killed that day.

The memorial wallStories and more stories, far too numerous to recount here but all made more tangible by what we could see, hear and touch.

Oklahoma City National Memorial and MuseumThe power of such memorials is that they are physical reminders that tell those of us who lived through the time of the events, “Remember.” And to those who come later: “Learn and do not forget.”

Oklahoma City National Memorial and MuseumTravel moves us from place to place. But often, if we avail ourselves, take the time and venture forth on “unnecessary” side trips, it moves us in other ways.

Jesus Wept at OKC MemorialI had no intention when I left on this business trip last week to visit this place. Now I cannot imagine ever forgetting it.

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When your trip goes awry – Part 3

by Steve Brock on January 16, 2013

To recap part 1 and part 2, I’m at an airport in the Midwest.

My first flight on Delta out of here was cancelled due to mechanical issues. My so-called rebooked flight on American didn’t happen since they said the reservation wasn’t confirmed. I’m having uncomfortable flashes of the Tom Hanks movie, “The Terminal…”

Back to the real-time account:

I jot down some questions in my journal: What is God trying to teach me? Is this a lesson in surrender and trust? But even amidst the concerns, I sense that He goes with me, knows how I feel and most importantly cares about this whole fiasco. I’m not alone in this.

I decide to walk back to the Delta gate, another attempt to do something even if I’m not sure what I’ll say once I get there. I’m telling myself to be grateful even if that’s not how I’m feeling.

And then I look up and see this sign:

Airport Sign
I stop and take a photo (not a very good one due to the glare). I know it’s not an accident I’m seeing this. I smile about the old adage regarding the guy who complained he had no shoes until he met the man who had no feet. I’m whining about a cold and a few extra hours in an airport. And here’s a photo of a little boy who has lost his leg to cancer.

Just as the impact of that starts to hit me, the phone rings. My travel person has booked me on a United flight. United? That’s not part of Delta’s network. She doesn’t care. She will make it work with Delta. Despite her normally sweet disposition, you don’t mess with my travel person, especially when she feels an injustice has been done.

I can only tell her for the I-don’t-know-how-manyeth time today, “Thank you.”

I head to the United gate and camp out there. Eventually, two gate agents arrive carrying on an animated conversation. I rush over. One barely glances my way but I take that as a signal to launch into my tale of woe. Neither care nor really seem to be listening, although the closest one taps on the computer even as she continues her conversation.

Somewhere between:

“Well, I don’t think he should have been allowed to change shifts like that!”


“There’ve been issues with him before. I remember when…”

the tapper reaches down, without seeming to take her eyes off her colleague, grabs a boarding pass from the printer below the counter and hands it to me. She does this all without missing a beat in her conversation. I will never be genetically capable of multi-tasking like that.

My thank you goes unheeded but no worries: I have a boarding pass! My sudden endearment for this stiff piece of paper makes me understand why people kiss the tarmac when they land after a grueling escapade abroad.

As I wait for my third flight out of this airport today, I still feel a bit like crying. Not out of frustration or disappointment this time, however, but out of gratitude. But that emotion is fading quickly.

In an almost sinister way, I feel the hard traveler’s edge returning. I’m starting to move beyond crisis back into routine. Even now, less than an hour after first being told I wasn’t on the American flight, I’m wondering why I was so worked up about it.

I’m glad I’m calmer. But I’m not so sure this tendency to shut down and return to a business-like approach to travel is such a good thing. I don’t like feeling raw, but neither do I like not feeling anything.

I would ponder this day more but I’m neither capable of making sense of it yet nor do I have the time. For even as I consider running and grabbing some lunch, I look over and my two talkative gate agents are now in full on boarding mode.

I have rarely wanted to board a plane as much as I do this one.

And now I am.


I find my seat and give thanks that this seems like I’m actually going to get out of here.

Or so I think.

To be continued…

If you haven’t yet done so, check out Part 1 and Part 2

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When your trip goes awry – Part 2

by Steve Brock January 10, 2013

What happens when a trip that started to go awry starts to go even further awry?

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When your trip goes awry – Part 1

by Steve Brock January 4, 2013

The first of a series on how we can’t recreate what we felt on a trip and what happens when everything seems to go wrong while traveling

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You had to be there – Part 5

by Steve Brock January 25, 2012

The best, most meaningful travel occurs on two levels, the internal and the external. To get the most out of a trip, you have to be there on both levels as I discovered one day in Southern France.

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