America’s unusual Federalist political system, put in place by our brilliant Founding Fathers, created a patchwork of unique, strong states. In so many ways, the 50 United States are distinctive…in landscape, population, geography, demographic composition, dialect, political and social culture, and religious composition, to name a few. The now familiar “red state/blue state” discourse about electoral politics is just one contemporary example of the divergent philosophies embedded within the states. Yet despite our philosophical differences, when a crisis impacts one American state, people of the other 49 gather in support and community to attend to the challenges of their brethren.
During the last two decades, we have witnessed several grave, terrorist tragedies that have tugged at our heartstrings, leading us to question humanity in fundamental ways. But in each instance, the crisis was met with help from others. In 1995, a so-called home grown terrorist Timothy McVeigh, launched an attack on Oklahoma City, a sprawling metropolitan area of 600,000, where 168 souls, including 19 children, were savagely killed. Born during the progressive era and birthed from the former Indian Territory, this state capitol has southern charm and a western outlook, strongly undergirded by a devout Christian faith. The lives lost in the destruction of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building touched the lives of all Americans. And in reflecting on that tragic April day, nearly 20 years ago, Oklahomans continue thank their brothers and sisters in NYC, who mounted volunteer efforts,
And, so when the terrorists took down the Twin Towers in New York City, the largest, most diverse, and cosmopolitan city in the U.S., the Sooners stood ready to offer their aid. From early cards sent by school children and a decorative banner, expressing their compassion, which hung from the St. Paul’s Chapel, where first responders gathered downtown, the good wishes of this conservative, middle-American state were front and Center. The support blossomed with members of Oklahoma City’s Memorial efforts coming to New York to help with the recovery and remained during their assistance in dealing knotty problems accompanying the 9-11 Memorial Commission as they struggled with how to memorialize the nearly 3,000 lives lost on that clear, autumn day. And, years later, embracing the circle of life and the ever-present desire to “pay it forward,” committed New Yorkers have restored that awful date in history, through groups like New York Says Thank You, to dispatch all over the country to help those in need. A survivor of the OKC bombing explains the waves of support like this, “We know what’s ahead in Boston. I will never forget the wonderful help from the New York City and the firemen who came down. Because of that, a number of us flew to New York to help people affected by 9/11, and now one of us is going up to Boston.”
As we all live through the most recent devastating tragedy at the Boston Marathon, New Yorkers and others have demonstrated, in concrete ways….sometimes small, sometimes great, that we are with the Yankees in New England, the cradle of where this great country was born. From the public art display at the Brooklyn Museum, shown above, to the spirit shown at the NY Yankees/Boston Red Sox game this week (which included the singing of the Red Sox anthem “Sweet Caroline” during the seventh inning stretch), the sometimes hardened New Yorkers blanketed the Bostonians with sympathy—and empathy—for this heinous crime against humanity.
The coming years will likely witness additional blows to our citizenry. No doubt, vast numbers of citizens, from all of our beautiful United States, will stand ready to shore up their emotional and physical resources to take care of our friends and neighbors in another corner of this massive country….regardless of their accent, ethnic background, political orientation, and all the rest. Because, of course, we are all in this together, just like the Founders had hoped.