One of the perks of my job is the ability to visit many places in the U.S. that I wouldn’t normally get a chance to see — conferences, seminars, trade shows, and the places where hvacr contractors work and live.

The news items involving suffering and triumph are the most appealing to me. I spent a few snowy days in Grand Forks, ND, in November a couple of years ago doing a story on contractors who helped restore the basic necessities of life to victims of the terrible Red River flood of April, 1997.

In a way, I feel connected to the community and the contractors who busted their butts during the flood recovery. I’m planning to revisit the community soon to check on their progress.

A visit to Oklahoma

My most recent foray into the emotional and human side of our business was in Oklahoma City, OK. The mere mention of the city’s name is all most people need to recall the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building five years ago, which claimed 168 innocent victims. This single act of domestic terrorism continues to play out in the hearts and minds of the people of Oklahoma — and the rest of the country — despite their efforts to put it in their past.

The bombing memorial that was erected on the site is a testament to how citizens continue to pay tribute to the victims. Portions of the chain link fence carrying pictures, letters, toys, and mementos from the victims’ lives remain a part of the memorial.

Inside the open-air structure is the most humbling sight of all. Where the building once stood sit 168 chairs, each with the name of a victim and strategically placed to depict the floor on which he or she died. Nineteen chairs are smaller than the others, honoring the children who died in the blast.

The six contractors I interviewed for my series were all affected by the bombing. Steve Hardesty has a friend whose child was physically handicapped as a result; David Kirkpatrick was a high school beau of the mother of one of the children killed; one of Claude Drabek’s employees lost a sister; the list goes on.

Many of the contractors helped rebuild damaged hvac systems; others lent a hand to the Red Cross by donating time, supplies, and blood. In the end, Oklahomans were drawn together and formed many permanent bonds.

Dave Henderson said he was “proud of how Oklahoma City pulled together,” calling its citizens a “testimony to the nation.”

I can’t remember one single event in my lifetime that had a more profound effect on me than the Oklahoma City bombing. I remember hearing of the bombing soon after I arrived at work — and for the rest of the day, work was a distraction. I needed to learn more.

If you wish to visit the bombing memorial and contribute to its maintenance, you can visit http://connections.oklahoman. net/memorial.

The first of our three-part series profiling Oklahoma City Contractors begins with this issue. Coverage begins on page 24.