Oklahoma Christian dedicates 9/11, Murrah memorial

By Mark Schlachtenhaufen, Courtesy of the Edmond Sun

On April 19, 1995, Neil Arter felt the effects of the bomb blast and could see the smoke rising from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building from the Oklahoma Christian University campus.

His recollection of parts of what happened during the hours and days that followed are a bit foggy. He remembers having questions: What happened? Where did things go wrong? Who did this?

Like many Oklahomans and Americans, members of the OC community learned about various needs related to the search and rescue effort, said Arter, now OC’s vice president for student life and dean of students. To help those at Ground Zero, they brought water and then blankets, gloves and whatever the media requested, Arter said.

As time passed, OC administration learned about alumni who were involved in the search and rescue operation and in the archiving process, Arter said. The university also has brought survivors to speak to OC students to help them understand what happened.

Additionally, an OC alum supported 419 Outreach, an Oklahoma organization dedicated to outreach, education and helping mitigate the effects of terrorism in Oklahoma and around the world. The same alum facilitated annual communication between survivors, family members and rescue workers of Sept. 11 and the Oklahoma City bombing.

In a show of appreciation to the OC community — a  show of solidarity between the two cities affected by the tragedies — 419 Outreach is donating a seedling from the Survivor Tree at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. It is also donating a piece of granite salvaged from the Murrah Building ruins.

Members of the New York delegation are carrying a cutting from the tree that survived the attacks on the World Trade Center and a steel cross cut from steel in the North Tower.

At 4 p.m. Wednesday, just west of the Mabee Learning Center on the OC campus, the survivors and rescue workers will participate in a tree planting ceremony and dedication of a memorial plaque.

419 Outreach Committee Vice President Joanne Hutchison said the tree planting and donation of granite from the Murrah Building are important to members of her organization.

“To our knowledge, this will be the only tree in Oklahoma that came from the survivor tree that stood in the plaza of the World Trade Center and planted next to the seedling of our Survivor Tree,” Hutchison said. “That makes this place truly special.”

Hutchison said OC students and alumni have been instrumental in educational outreach connected to these horrific events, making OC an appropriate place to have such a memorial.

Traveling with the tree from New York is Ronaldo Vega, director of design and construction of the National September 11 Memorial, and his wife Judy. Others coming are World Trade Center survivor Tom Canavan, survivor and rescue worker Charles Kaczorowski, rescue worker Mike Kenny, Sarri Singer, a co-founder of One Heart, an organization of terrorism survivors in New York, and Glenn Radalinsky, a member of the Nassau County New York Police Department.

Arter said the works of service by the OC community reflect their love for Jesus, who was the ultimate example of being a servant.

Other forms of OC support include the student government making a donation to 419 Outreach in helping establish the university’s tree memorial. OC students also annually make up a large number of runners in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. Arter said this year’s group will be about 500 strong.