“It wasn’t your fault”

I know the unfathomable grief that Martin Richard's parents must be feeling. I lost my daughter to a bomb, too

Topics: Boston Bombings, Life stories, Real Families, Oklahoma City Bombing, Martin Richard, martin richards, Violence, Editor's Picks,

"It wasn't your fault"The author's daughter, Ashley Megan Eckles, and Martin Richard, who died in the Boston bombing.(Credit: AP/Bill Richard)

I haven’t been able to watch footage of Boston. When it comes on TV, I can watch a little bit, but then I have to walk away. The picture of Martin Richard, the little boy who died, brings tears to my eyes, because I know what his parents are going through. I lost my 4-year-old daughter, Ashley, in the Oklahoma City bombings, along with my husband’s parents, LaRue and Luther. Eighteen years later, I’m still living with the trauma. The trauma never goes away.

I was at work when the bomb went off. Everything on my desk shifted. In my naiveté, I wondered: Did one of the silos blow up? We turned on the news, and saw the chaos, the building torn away. I thought, “Thank God no one I love is in that building.”

My husband’s parents were taking care of Ashley that day. My husband’s father had an appointment at the Social Security Building at 9 o’clock, which I didn’t realize was in the federal building. When it finally sunk in what was happening, I collapsed in on myself. It’s a very hopeless feeling, not knowing.

We spent days looking for her, sitting in hospitals and churches, watching and waiting. I kept thinking, she’s just lost. She’s a little girl. Someone has her, and they don’t know where to take her. But eventually we realized there was no hope of finding her. It was inevitable that she was gone. That they were all gone. It was Wednesday when they finally called us to say they had her body. A few months later, I received a call after she was buried that they had found her hand. We put it in a little urn, and we buried it with her.

I blamed myself for a long time. As a parent, you do everything in your power to protect your children from violence. And you start wondering if there was something you could have done better. So when they finally found Timothy McVeigh, it did give me a focus for my anger. I had a face. It did change how I felt to hear his mind-set and his irrationality. He called my daughter “collateral damage.” I can’t even begin to tell you how angry that made me. Just that one statement.



Eventually I’ll reach out to the parents of that little boy. Right now, they’re too far in grief and disbelief but when they’re ready, I’ll reach out. What I want to tell them is that they didn’t do anything wrong. They were living their life without fear, and they have to continue to live their life without fear in honor of their boy. That’s the way you move forward. You’ll get angry. You’ll go through all the phases of grief, but eventually you’ll get to acceptance. And acceptance doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve let go of the person you lost, but you understand where you are now. Eventually his parents are going to have to forgive. Forgiveness isn’t for the person who did it. Forgiveness is for the person who is forgiving. It does not mean releasing anyone from their responsibility. It’s letting go of what holds you to the place where you are.

We had another daughter born after the bombing. A gift. She’s 14 now. I have a stepson who is now married, and 27, and considering children of his own. But my son Zac died in 2006 of cardiac arrest at 17. It was very sudden, very tragic. There is no way to say whether the cardiac arrest was the result of the bombing. Post-traumatic stress disorder does have physiological effects on people, and when the medical examiner called me he told me there was no reason Zac should have been lying on his table. In my heart of hearts, I feel like there was a connection there, but I have no medical proof.

Right now, I’m the transportation director for our public schools in Deer Creek, Okla. Part of my job is to drive a bus. I make sure all the children get taken care of, and the kids get to school. People ask me sometimes, why do you do what you do? And I say, because I live for the service of children.

I don’t know how much my experience has in common with what people are going through in Boston. What we have in common is a bomb. But violence is violence, whether it’s a bomb or a shotgun or a knife. It’s random, and it’s unexpected. It takes our loved ones. It rocks our security. I think anyone who has lost someone in an act of violence shares this grief. The bottom line is whoever did this was a murderer, just the same as anyone who murders someone on the street. But every act of violence, regardless of how it’s perpetuated, brings people together. We as a community seek to find answers for loss.

We need each other. That’s why we live together. Do not pretend that you’re disconnected, because you’re not. That’s why we choose to live in communities like we do. We need to be there for each other. Don’t assume that your neighbor is coping. They’re probably not. That’s what we learned in Oklahoma 18 years ago. That we’re stronger in numbers.

This story was told to Sarah Hepola.

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 11
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Beautiful Darkness by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët
    Kerascoët's lovely, delicate pen-and-watercolor art -- all intricate botanicals, big eyes and flowing hair -- gives this fairy story a deceptively pretty finish. You find out quickly, however, that these are the heartless and heedless fairies of folk legend, not the sentimental sprites beloved by the Victorians and Disney fans. A host of tiny hominid creatures must learn to survive in the forest after fleeing their former home -- a little girl who lies dead in the woods. The main character, Aurora, tries to organize the group into a community, but most of her cohort is too capricious, lazy and selfish to participate for long. There's no real moral to this story, which is refreshing in itself, beyond the perpetual lessons that life is hard and you have to be careful whom you trust. Never has ugly truth been given a prettier face.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Climate Changed: A Personal Journey Through the Science by Philippe Squarzoni
    Squarzoni is a French cartoonist who makes nonfiction graphic novels about contemporary issues and politics. While finishing up a book about France under Jacques Chirac, he realized that when it came to environmental policy, he didn't know what he was talking about. "Climate Changed" is the result of his efforts to understand what has been happening to the planet, a striking combination of memoir and data that ruminates on a notoriously elusive, difficult and even imponderable subject. Panels of talking heads dispensing information (or Squarzoni discussing the issues with his partner) are juxtaposed with detailed and meticulous yet lyrical scenes from the author's childhood, the countryside where he takes a holiday and a visit to New York. He uses his own unreachable past as a way to grasp the imminent transformation of the Earth. The result is both enlightening and unexpectedly moving.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Here by Richard McGuire
    A six-page version of this innovative work by a regular contributor to the New Yorker first appeared in RAW magazine 25 years ago. Each two-page spread depicts a single place, sometimes occupied by a corner of a room, over the course of 4 billion years. The oldest image is a blur of pink and purple gases; others depict hazmat-suited explorers from 300 years in the future. Inset images show the changing decor and inhabitants of the house throughout its existence: family photos, quarrels, kids in Halloween costumes, a woman reading a book, a cat walking across the floor. The cumulative effect is serene and ravishing, an intimation of the immensity of time and the wonder embodied in the humblest things.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
    The legendary Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist delivers his debut graphic novel at 85, a deliriously over-the-top blend of classic movie noir and melodrama that roams from chiaroscuro Bay City to Hollywood to a USO gig in the Pacific theater of World War II. There's a burnt-out drunk of a private eye, but the story is soon commandeered by a multigenerational collection of ferocious women, including a mysterious chanteuse who never speaks, a radio comedy writer who makes a childhood friend the butt of a hit series and a ruthless dame intent on making her whiny coward of a husband into a star. There are disguises, musical numbers and plenty of gunfights, but the drawing is the main attraction. Nobody convey's bodies in motion more thrillingly than Feiffer, whether they're dancing, running or duking it out. The kid has promise.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Motherless Oven by Rob Davis
    This is a weird one, but in the nervy surreal way that word-playful novels like "A Clockwork Orange" or "Ulysses" are weird. The main character, a teenage schoolboy named Scarper Lee, lives in a world where it rains knives and people make their own parents, contraptions that can be anything from a tiny figurine stashable in a pocket to biomorphic boiler-like entities that seem to have escaped from Dr. Seuss' nightmares. Their homes are crammed with gadgets they call gods and instead of TV they watch a hulu-hoop-size wheel of repeating images that changes with the day of the week. They also know their own "death day," and Scarper's is coming up fast. Maybe that's why he runs off with the new girl at school, a real troublemaker, and the obscurely dysfunctional Castro, whose mother is a cageful of talking parakeets. A solid towline of teenage angst holds this manically inventive vision together, and proves that some graphic novels can rival the text-only kind at their own game.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    NOBROW 9: It's Oh So Quiet
    For each issue, the anthology magazine put out by this adventurous U.K.-based publisher of independent graphic design, illustration and comics gives 45 artists a four-color palette and a theme. In the ninth issue, the theme is silence, and the results are magnificent and full of surprises. The comics, each told in images only, range from atmospheric to trippy to jokey to melancholy to epic to creepy. But the two-page illustrations are even more powerful, even if it's not always easy to see how they pertain to the overall concept of silence. Well, except perhaps for the fact that so many of them left me utterly dumbstruck with visual delight.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Over Easy by Mimi Pond
    When Pond was a broke art student in the 1970s, she took a job at a neighborhood breakfast spot in Oakland, a place with good food, splendid coffee and an endlessly entertaining crew of short-order cooks, waitresses, dishwashers and regular customers. This graphic memoir, influenced by the work of Pond's friend, Alison Bechdel, captures the funky ethos of the time, when hippies, punks and disco aficionados mingled in a Bay Area at the height of its eccentricity. The staff of the Imperial Cafe were forever swapping wisecracks and hopping in and out of each other's beds, which makes them more or less like every restaurant team in history. There's an intoxicating esprit de corps to a well-run everyday joint like the Imperial Cafe, and never has the delight in being part of it been more winningly portrayed.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew
    You don't have to be a superhero fan to be utterly charmed by Yang and Liew's revival of a little-known character created in the 1940s by the cartoonist Chu Hing. This version of the Green Turtle, however, is rich in characterization, comedy and luscious period detail from the Chinatown of "San Incendio" (a ringer for San Francisco). Hank, son of a mild-mannered grocer, would like to follow in his father's footsteps, but his restless mother (the book's best character and drawn with masterful nuance by Liew) has other ideas after her thrilling encounter with a superhero. Yang's story effortlessly folds pathos into humor without stooping to either slapstick or cheap "darkness." This is that rare tribute that far surpasses the thing it celebrates.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Shoplifter by Michael Cho
    Corinna Park, former English major, works, unhappily, in a Toronto advertising agency. When the dissatisfaction of the past five years begins to oppress her, she lets off steam by pilfering magazines from a local convenience store. Cho's moody character study is as much about city life as it is about Corinna. He depicts her falling asleep in front of the TV in her condo, brooding on the subway, roaming the crowded streets after a budding romance goes awry. Like a great short story, this is a simple tale of a young woman figuring out how to get her life back, but if feels as if it contains so much of contemporary existence -- its comforts, its loneliness, its self-deceptions -- suspended in wintery amber.

    Ten spectacular graphic novels from 2014

    Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
    This collection of archetypal horror, fairy and ghost stories, all about young girls, comes lushly decked in Carroll's inky black, snowy white and blood-scarlet art. A young bride hears her predecessor's bones singing from under the floorboards, two friends make the mistake of pretending to summon the spirits of the dead, a family of orphaned siblings disappears one by one into the winter nights. Carroll's color-saturated images can be jagged, ornate and gruesome, but she also knows how to chill with absence, shadows and a single staring eye. Literary readers who cherish the work of Kelly Link or the late Angela Carter's collection, "The Bloody Chamber," will adore the violent beauty on these pages.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>