Wednesday, May 14, 2008

9:02 + 13 Years

Christopher Nguyen is graduating from high school.

A simple statement, a seemingly random sentence, plucked out of nowhere and presented on this page. Christopher Nguyen is graduating from high school. So are millions of other students across the country. So what makes this one noteworthy?

13 years ago, Christopher Nguyen was a four year old child in a day care center while his parents were at work. One day in April, he was one of 21 children at the America's Kids Day Care Center. By the end of that day, 15 of his playmates died in what was at that time the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil in history. Christopher Nguyen is a survivor of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Since that fateful day in the spring of 1995, Timothy McVeigh, who drove the truck, has been executed for the death of eight federal officials. Terry Nichols, McVeigh's co-conspirator, was sentenced to life in prison for those eight officials, plus on 161 counts of murder by Oklahoma state courts. The Murrah building was razed to the ground and replaced by a national memorial, and a new federal building has been built in Oklahoma City. Life has gone on, for Oklahoma, for the United States, and for the survivors.

And now, the first of the six child survivors is about to graduate from high school. Christopher Nguyen carries forward. He does not remember the bombing, which is hardly surprising, but seeing him standing, staring at the last remaining pieces of the Murrah building that today stand at one side of the memorial, you can see in his eyes the questions that will likely dominate his life. Why did he survive, when so many others did not?

On the outside of one of the gates to the memorial are the following words:

We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.
Now Christopher Nguyen will take his first steps out into the world. He is both a survivor and a symbol. I wish him nothing but the best, and a long, happy, and healthy life. And I hope that the survivor of this ultimate act of violence and hate will see in his lifetime even a glimmer of peace for us all.