The OKC bombing Sonic connection

Twenty years ago, I was working on an ad campaign for Shots for Tots that involved a partnership with Sonic Drive-Ins.  We had a small book of coupons for parents that the doctor’s office would stamp when parents brought kids in for shots. The coupon was good for a free burger or ice cream or something.  I think the early coupons were geared more toward parents and then moved toward kid food as the kids moved into pre-school years.

Sonic is headquartered in Oklahoma City. Because of that, I knew that something weird had happened in OKC before the news hit about the bombing.  First thing that morning, I called the local Sonic sales rep we were working with to follow up on a question about the campaign. When he answered he was flustered and said he would have to get back to me. He had just been on the phone with headquarters when the woman he was talking to gasped and told him that there had been an explosion or an accident hung up on him. He had no idea what was going on.

This was back in the day when there were no smart phones and the Internet was all about AOL. It was probably about an hour after that phone call that the story hit all the national networks. Our office gathered in the company conference room around the only television to watch the coverage. It was horrific and surreal…and we were all sure it was a terrorist act perpetrated by foreign (most likely brown-skinned) terrorists.

My memory of that day is inextricably tied to Sonic Drive-ins. While it doesn’t happen every time I go (since I go there a lot), I sometimes think of what happened in OKC, particularly when my eyes fall on the children’s section of the menu. Those same graphics adorned our coupon book. I also recently acquired a great photograph taken from a cemetery across the street from the Sonic in downtown Little Rock. The perspective makes it look as if two large stone angels are watching over the drive-in. It hangs in my office and it, too, often reminds me of what happened in OKC twenty years ago.

I never imagined that the level of violence we witnessed that morning would be repeated in our country many times in many ways over the next 20 years. And that the 20th anniversary of the event should fall on the day of the second Boston marathon since the bombing at that event seems to give it even greater weight.

Yet even while I lament the violence, I realize that what we experience in our country doesn’t even come close to the level and magnitude of violence that many people across the world face everyday.  And the causes of the violence are so multi-faceted, it seems impossible to even begin to make a dent in it.

But may we keep trying to make those dents.

May we work toward better understanding of people who are different than we are

May we fight for better access to mental health care

May we recognize our own roles (unintended as they may be) as oppressors

May we seek to love one another as Jesus loves us.

May we remember those who have been lost to violence and may we do right by their memory by working to promote peace, love and understanding.


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