History Repeats Itself in OK and AZ: Re-Building Peace

9:02 a.m. April 19th, 1995, Oklahoma City

The country was forever changed by the Oklahoma City bombing that killed 168 citizens, 19 of which were under the age of 6, injured more than 680, and destroyed or damaged 324 buildings and 86 cars.

April 23, 1995, Oklahoma City

Mere days after the bombing in Oklahoma City, remembering the lives lost, President Clinton spoke these words to a deeply grieving city and country:

  • “…For so many of you they were also neighbors and friends. You saw them at church or the PTA meetings, at the civic clubs, at the ball park. You know them in ways that all the rest of America could not. And to all the members of the families here present who have suffered loss, though we share your grief, your pain is unimaginable, and we know that. We cannot undo it. That is God’s work.”

March 1998, Oklahoma City

Just before the three year anniversary, I visited the Oklahoma City bombing site with some college friends. In my photo album from that visit, which includes the photo below, I wrote: 

  • “…time has stood still [here]. Very little has been rebuilt – windows are still blown out, and flowers, pictures and poems hang on the surrounding fence. The grief is still fresh, and it disturbed us all to consider what humans are capable of.”

During that visit, my friend Josh paid his respects under the Survivor Tree, which is the only tree that survived the blast. On the wall in front of him were these words with the date 4-19-95:

  • “We search for truth; we seek justice. The courts require it, the victims cry for it and GOD demands it.” – [Rescue] Team 5

Friday, January 7th, 2011, Oklahoma City

It was the last evening for a while that it was going to be warm enough to be outside taking pictures. So, I grabbed my camera bag and headed down to the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Due to the weather, there weren’t many people around; the place once shaken to it’s core by violence was quiet, peaceful. I remembered the dark days surrounding the bombing 15 years ago. Since then, the city has rebuilt buildings, replaced the broken windows, and worked to heal. The memorial serves as a reminder of how the world can change in a single minute. The main gates are marked with the time before and after the blast: 9:01 a.m. and 9:03 a.m. 

The east gate is marked with these 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.”

The Survivor Tree Josh sat under remains; in fact, it’s flourished, and it’s preserved as part of the Memorial in tribute to human resiliency. 

Surrounding the Survivor Tree is a thank you to all who assisted after the tragedy: “…We offer our eternal gratitude.”

The fence I saw in 1998, lined with flowers, poems, and remembrances, still remains, lining the west side of the Memorial.

A single chair honors each victim. The chairs arranged in rows according to the floor of the building on which each person was at the time of the bombing. The space occupied by the chairs mirrors the exact footprint of the destroyed building. 

Made of glass and copper, the chairs appear to float in daylight, and later, they are illuminated by the setting sun. 

Each chair is etched with a victim’s name.

A reflecting pool separates the memorial chairs from the Survivor Tree.

The soft sunset light reflects off the copper chairs and reflecting pool, making the chairs almost glow.


Oklahoma City now bustles with activity around the Memorial. Ironically, HBP Goes Interstate! More Info on Our Move to OKC…” href=”https://hollybaumannphotography.wordpress.com/2010/11/11/hbp-goes-interstate-more-info-on-our-move-to-okc/”>my husband’s construction project is within eye shot of the bombing site, as shown below. Life has, indeed, gone on here. But this poignant Memorial is in the heart of the city. People see it, and remember, and feel, the event of April 19, 1995, every day, while going to work, eating dinner, getting drinks, seeing a show. 

Saturday Morning, January 8th, 2011, Oklahoma, Arizona, and Around the Country
I woke up, drank my coffee, headed out for a pedicure with a friend. A normal Saturday. A peaceful Saturday. Until, it wasn’t. 

I came home to learn of the shooting in Tucson. It took my breath away. I felt physically sick. My brain raced, like everyone else’s: Why Gabby? Why Tucson? Why now? Why a child? A political assassination attempt? In the United States? This is NOT what Arizona needs after the year we’ve had! Fear, anger, grief, a knee jerk reaction to cast blame. Frustration that I was far away from people I love that are also grieving. 

Only minutes after the shooting, everyone already placing blame. We’re human, and we need to feel like stuff like this is someone else’s fault. We need to make things black and white. So we can fix it, make sure it doesn’t happen again, make sure we don’t feel any guilt ourselves. 


Immediately, the pundits and commentators started making comparisons to the Oklahoma City bombing. While many, many fewer people died this weekend than in 1995, the parallels are striking. We are having the same conversations and speculations: did a hostile, polarized political climate contribute to the act? Was it simply a madman with no cohesive philosophy that just wanted to be famous? Was it both? 

But, in the mix with the anger and finger pointing, there were also pleads for peace. Calls for unity. Prayer, candles, and calm. Bipartisan press statements, parents comforting children, leaders promising justice and safety.

Sunday, January 9th, 2011, Arizona

Arizona wakes up, like Oklahoma City did on April 20th, 1995, and like New York did on September 12, 2001, in the immediate aftermath of a terror-inducing tragedy. Things feel different. The people touched by the events of the day before will never be the same. Everyone grapples with how to respond. We come together in a real and honest way, recognizing our connection to one another. We cling to the words of leaders we trust.

  • “I have learned we only get through the grief and loss together. We don’t really grieve alone, for when we try that, we stumble along without healing and the pain just goes on and on. Together gradually, slowly, haltingly we proceed into the new reality, a new unknown…we will try to love each more, we will treat each other with more dignity, we will choose our words more carefully… I hope for a new political reality, a new tone, with new solutions so that the lives lost and lives injured, authentically transform the past harsh reality. That might help heal this collective pain we have been suffering for a very, very long time …. before this latest, harsh, tragic reminder that our words and actions have consequences.” – Tim Schmaltz, 1/9/11

Monday, January 10th, 2011, Phoenix, AZ

Arizona’s legislature convenes for the first day of the 2011 legislative session, as they always do on the second Monday in January. But talk of policy and agenda goes out the window, at least, for a day. Instead, they honor the victims of Saturday’s shooting and make ecumenical calls for unity and peace. 

  • “What does this bitter experience teach us? For me, it is a cold reminder that life is precious and faint. That no one can be assured what the future will hold. That second chances to seek forgiveness and repair relationships sometimes never come. That the defining difference between civil society and anarchy is the ability to respect and value those with whom we disagree.” – Arizona Speaker of the House, Kirk Adams 1/10/11
  • “As Jews, we are commanded by God to exercise our compassion, our strength and our skills to make the world a better place. If this horrendous act is to teach us anything, it should be that we are all human and all of us are granted certain inalienable rights by our creator. We must treat all people regardless of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, party or immigration status as such. We need to be better, all of us, so this doesn’t happen again. I ask that as we each deal with this tragedy in our own ways, we all remember the principle of “Tikkun Olam.” The world needs healing, our nation needs healing, our state needs healing.” – Sen. David Schapira, Arizona Senate Minority Leader, 1/10/11

January 12th, 2011, and Beyond
The loss is sinking in; the significance of what occurred is starting to spur action. How will our leaders respond? How will individuals respond?

What happened in Tucson is a true act of terrorism, a direct attack on our way of life in the US. If we let it, what happened in Tucson can change the way we fundamentally organize our government; it can make elected officials afraid to interact with their constituents; it can threaten the access average citizens currently have to those in power. These are the things that characterize our democracy, that distinguish the US from other nations throughout history.

On a more individual level, it’s difficult for those impacted to imagine ever feeling better. And, in some ways, they (we) won’t. It’s different now. Something broke on Saturday. 

Healing takes time, and it takes work. We can do some of it for ourselves, and for each other. But, like President Clinton said 15 years ago, some healing we have to leave in God’s hands, because some of it’s just too big for us. 

It’s hard to imagine now, but the same thing will happen in Arizona that happened in Oklahoma. In three years, or fifteen, where there was once emptiness and loss, there will be something more peaceful, more beautiful; something to preserve the lessons learned and the memories of people that were lost. 

In the meantime, let’s work hard to speak gently, to reserve blame, seek justice, and work to preserve unity. Violence, whether of words or action, is always an easier path than peace. Peace is a higher ideal. It’s slower to arrive, harder to achieve, and more difficult to maintain. We have to choose it. 


I haven’t always taken such a high road. I’ve instigated arguments, I’ve spoken too quickly, I’ve said things I regret to people I love, I’ve failed to respect someone else’s different opinion. I plan to work on this. I want to do my part, like Sen Schapira said, to apply the principle of Tikkun Olam. 

Heal the world. “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”

– HBA

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About Mosaic Collective, LLC

I am Holly Baumann Ambuehl, founding member of Mosaic Collective, LLC, which was founded in early 2017 and is based in Central Illinois. I own and operate Mosaic Collective with my partner in business and life, my husband, Nathan. Mosaic Collective, LLC houses our rental property, my consulting contracts (with the nonprofit and public sectors on various work), and also my commercial and portrait photography business, which has been doing business as Holly Baumann Photography since 2008 long before the formation of our LLC. My blog posts feature client work, but I just love to write, so I also write about owning a business, food and drink, travel, and sometimes, my personal life! I am always honored when clients trust me to capture their vision, and equally so when my readers converse with me about what I've photographed or expressed here. I hope we'll have an opportunity to collaborate professionally and/or become friends. I'd love to hear what you think! - Holly
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One Response to History Repeats Itself in OK and AZ: Re-Building Peace

  1. Dennis says:

    >Very moving tribute to both of these tragic events. It's a shame these acts of violence exist.

    Like

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