What does a minute mean to you?

For the latter half of last week I was in Oklahoma City attending a psychology research convention about trauma and resilience. My group stayed in the heart of downtown, allowing me to slip away one morning to see the Oklahoma City National Memorial. The photo at right captures much of the scene, yet misses the similar square structure that stands at the other side of the skinny pool. (Shown in the architectural model below.)

As you can see above, 9:03 is carved out of the copper facade and illuminated from within. The monument on the opposite side is identical, except for its time — 9:01.

It was at 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, that the terrorist bomb exploded in a drop-off zone beneath the day care center of Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The blast, which could be heard and felt up to 55 miles away, killed 168 people (19 were children under the age of 6) and injured more than 680.

The monument is powerful. Chair-like statues (pictured on the far lawn) are purposefully placed, each one representing an individual who lost his/her life. A church stands on the adjacent corner with its steeple rising above the entire scene, perhaps prompting many visitors to wonder, “Where was God?”

After discussing the site with a friend, I discovered that what moved me most was the motionless “clocks”, which were designed to portray the preciousness of each minute and create a sacred holding space for the tragic 9:02 event. At 9:01, April 19 was an ordinary Wednesday in Oklahoma City. Just two minutes later, it was not.

It’s hard to remember during day-to-day life to savor moments. To live abundantly, to feel deeply. To be present. Sometimes small whispers call us to wake up, other times we get major reminders – like mornings spent at monuments. Reminders that nothing can be taken for granted, that every part of this physical world is subject to change. That life is a gift.

A man I respect tremendously recently introduced me to Soren Kirkegaard’s reflections about people becoming “tranquilized by the trivial,” and he shared a few wise words that have stuck with me. I pass them on:

That it will never come again / is what makes life so sweet. Emily Dickinson
Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy. Abraham Joshua Heschel

What does a minute mean to you?

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