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Gallagher: Let heroes be our legacy, not tragedies

FILE - In this April 19 1995 file phoOklahomCity fire Capt. Chris Fields carries 1-year-old Baylee AlmAlfred Murrah Federal Building

FILE - In this April 19, 1995 file photo, Oklahoma City fire Capt. Chris Fields carries 1-year-old Baylee Almon at the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. The child died of her injuries. More than 600 people were injured in the attack and 168 people were killed. (AP Photo/Charles H. Porter IV, File) NO SALES

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Updated: May 21, 2013 6:17AM



As we drove by the explosion site, someone warned not to roll down the windows. Even still, we could smell the unforgettable horrors of death.

Eighteen years ago today, 168 people were killed, including my college roommate, when a bomb went off at the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

Julie Welch was 23 when she died. She was working for the Social Security Administration. We had met five years before on our first day at Marquette University.

On Monday, as the news about the Boston Marathon bombings flashed across my TV, time ... stood ... still.

Instantly, I was back to when Tom Brokaw interrupted, announcing an explosion in Oklahoma City. I balked at him and went about my business. I didn’t have the capacity to comprehend what either bombing would bring.

History has buried too many this week. Timothy McVeigh claimed this day in retribution of the Waco siege two years before that claimed 76 lives. On April 20, 1999, 13 people died at Columbine High School. The Virgina Tech shooter killed 32 on April 16, 2007.

Each year, while the rest of America is focused on filing income taxes, I pray the week will pass without incident.

My naivete has been replaced with a certain callousness. We are a new nation. If Oklahoma City hadn’t changed us, 9/11 certainly did. Soft targets are what they call us now.

Yes, I saw the gutted Murrah building, half standing, proud and weeping. Many bodies were not yet found. Yes, I smelled their presence. Today, I can’t think about that without remembering the famous photo of the firefighter carrying the baby.

The colors of Old Glory are said to represent purity, bravery and perseverance. It’s not the bombers who are the patriots, as McVeigh claimed to be. It is the first responders who honor our flag.

Tragedy knows no color, language, age or ethnicity. For those who lost people this week or in years past, let us focus on the heroes, not the tragedies. The first responders represent our red, white and blue. Let their legacies, not the horrors, be the hallmark of our nation’s history.



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