Fifteen years have passed since Timothy McVeigh's bomb ripped the heart out of my hometown. Fifteen years since people I knew had their lives cut short by violence planned and executed here in our land by one of our neighbors. This is one pain that does not diminish over time.
I had represented
in Congress for 16 years. On the day Timothy McVeigh's bomb exploded outside a courthouse named for a federal judge I had known, I was far from my home, teaching at Harvard. I was about to enter a classroom for a 10 o'clock class when I learned of what had happened. The news was numbing. Not only was this my home, these people were my friends; my daughter still lived there, my grandchildren lived there. What was happening? Who had done this? Who was safe?
As those who know me can attest, I am inordinately proud of my city. I don't know what "heartland" means (for some of the people I had come to know, this was merely a place to be looked down upon from one's airplane window or from one's smug condescension) but there is a wonderful spirit in this still-new place and I love it. Because my own life has been so intertwined with politics, I see the political milieu as one way to describe this place. The district I represented has been represented in Congress in the past 34 years by a Jew, a Mormon, a woman (this in a state with few Jews and few Mormons). An adjoining district was represented first by an African-American and now by a member of the Chicksaw Indian tribe. In an overwhelmingly Protestant state, Catholics are routinely elected to major statewide offices. Tribalism extends only to actual Native American tribes: in
, nobody knows or cares about your religion, your ethnicity, and unless you're a candidate for public office, your party affiliation. What binds us is a common humanity, unroiled by artificial division.