This summer I was at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum – a memorial to the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Murrah Federal building which killed 168 people. It is a beautiful and power memorial. We were only able to view the outside memorial due to the hour of the day but the symbolism of that place was powerful enough to help us feel a small sense of what happened in that sacred space 17 years ago.
One of the most moving parts of the memorial for me was the Gates of Time. These monumental twin gates frame the moment of destruction – 9:02 a.m. – and mark the formal entrances to the Memorial. The East Gate represents 9:01 a.m. on April 19, and the innocence of the city before the attack. The West Gate represents 9:03 a.m., the moment we were changed forever, and the hope that came from the horror in the moments and days following the bombing. When you enter either gate, you have to wind through a ramp that twists back and forth. This was done on purpose to force people to slow down and to transition from the outside world to the sacred space, the solemn moment. Between the gates, time is frozen. People linger, reflect, relive a moment that changed everything for so many.
But at the end of the day, they have to exit through the other gate. Eventually, they have to pass back through to the real world, the waiting world with all of its quirks and hurts; joys and fears. You simply can’t live between those gates.
But some of us try, don’t we?
Most of us have moments in our lives where peace and innocence were destroyed and we were left dazed and bleeding, standing among the rubble and the ash. Maybe it was a dream that crashed and burned; a relationship that ended despite your best efforts; another’s choice that forced the label of victim upon you. Whatever it was that brought death and destruction into your life, that moment is etched in your brain like a memorial and it is tempting to live between the gates.
But we can’t.
We can linger. We can reflect. We can relive a moment that changed everything for us. We can build an altar so we don’t forget any lessons we learned. But, eventually, we have to exit out the other side. The world didn’t stop even though ours did.
So, if you find yourself stuck between the gates please know that I am praying for you. My natural inclination is to rush in and help you find your way out. But I can’t. This is your journey to make. When you are ready to move on, know that I’ll be waiting for you – just outside the gate.