10 Years Later: Reflecting in Oklahoma

Another early morning. Another day of getting ready for work. Another radio news show blasting loudly in the house.

Another early morning. Another day of getting ready for work. Another radio news show blasting loudly in the house.

Then the interview began: A former Oklahoma state representative recounts how he thinks that the Oklahoma City bombing was a cover-up, a conspiracy, perhaps even involving Middle Eastern terrorists.

I listen for a hint of something new and then angrily turn off the radio. I've heard and read about these cover-up and conspiracy theories since 1995. They all revolve around the same theme. They all seem to involve more conjecture than fact.

It must be close to another anniversary.

As I drove to work that morning, the memories flooded my mind. The cloud of gray smoke rising from downtown Oklahoma City, the buildings miles away shaking furiously because of the bomb's aftershock, the momentary silence of a newsroom before it began to feverishly cover a horrendous act.

Ten years later, the rubble has been replaced by a beautiful memorial frequented by thousands of people, refurbished buildings and a sense of pride in a renewed downtown area. Many of the journalists who distinguished themselves so greatly during the coverage remain in The Oklahoman's newsroom.

The bombing aftermath taught me the impact of your coverage on the victims, community and journalists. It taught me that a tough journalist could be a sensitive journalist. And it taught me that we live in a world in which violent acts can occur anywhere at anytime, even on a nice and sunny spring day in your community.

It also connected me to the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma. The Oklahoman won the Dart Award for Excellence in Reporting on Victims of Violence in 1996 for its bombing coverage. The staff then decided to use the $10,000 prize to create the "Institute on Coverage of Disasters and Tragedies: Writing and Editing Better Stories About Crimes" in 1997. As victims' team leader of the bombing coverage, I was proud not only of the award but most of all by the newsroom's noble act afterward.

Oklahoman Editor Ed Kelley, who led the newspaper's coverage in 1995, once remarked that the Dart Award could become the most prestigious of the national awards that the paper won that year.

To me, it has.

Yet, I will not be celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. I remarked to a colleague that I dreaded the actual anniversary, not just for me but for the victims who must relive that tragic day again.

Perhaps Abraham Scott, who lost his wife, Janice Marie, in the Pentagon attack on Sept. 11, 2001, has a valid point when he says that the news media should avoid usage of the word "anniversary." Maybe, he suggests, "observance," "day of remembrance" or "memorial date" would be better.

April 19, 2005, will be a time for reflection and remembrance. It also will be a time that memories will be rekindled by countless media reports. Most of these will be respectful and sensitive. However, some media outlets will rehash the most sensational of the conspiracy theories, show images of the blood and rubble of that day over and over, and report that the victims are finding closure because of an anniversary event.

It's this type of coverage that I regret.