As I said, Oklahoma City affected me much more than did the 9/11 tragedy. The reason is that in the spring of 1995, I was working as a data transcriber at the IRS’ regional facility in Covington, Kentucky. I had been there since January, after resigning from the post office. Even though I did not know anyone who perished at Oklahoma City, it felt like a stab at myself and other people who worked in government–state, Federal, county, or local.
That is why I never saw any humor in the late, unlamented Ronald Reagan’s little asides about government and its evils. Just before the Federal government shut down in the fall of 1995, I was interviewed by a WBNS-TV reporter just outside the Federal Building, where I was working (I had moved to Columbus from Cincinnati in August, to take another IRS job). In that interview, I said that Federal employees served their country just as much as any soldier who had fought in Desert Storm or any other war. If someone were to take Reagan’s quips about “government” and “bureaucrats,” and replace them with the word “soldier,” his political career would have been stillborn.
Even among soldiers, the clerical and support positions never received respect. My dad was drafted into the Army in 1952, just after he graduated from the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. Just after he completed basic training, his unit was going to be shipped out to South Korea. The commanding officer of the new unit asked the men, “Is there anybody here who can type?” My dad raised his hand, and they changed his orders and he was the new company clerk in the outfit at Camp Breckenridge, Kentucky. It quite possibly saved him from coming home in a box. He told me later that clerk-typists and other support personnel were sneeringly called “Remington raiders,” and Remington referred to the typewriter, not to the rifle.
Civil servants, as I stated, serve their country as much with a word processor as with an M-16, and yet they are always blamed for whatever problems people have with the government. I had to deflect many tirades when I was an appointment clerk from the IRS, and there were times I had to remind people that the IRS doesn’t make the tax laws, its mission was to enforce whatever tax laws Congress passes. So if they didn’t like the tax laws, vote your representatives out of office.
By working for the IRS, I knew that I was on the short list of the militia inbreeds’ real or supposed enemies, right after the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Rumors at the IRS facility were flying like mad the whole evening after the bombing–we didn’t know where, or if, another building had been targeted for demolition.
I initially learned of the tragedy when I took a bus from Cincinnati to Columbus for a job interview at the Agriculture Department. I was greeted at the Greyhound station by my friend Ivan and his young stepson. As we were leaving the bus station, Ivan said, “Did you hear about Oklahoma City?” I hadn’t, and he filled me in on just what happened. As I reconstruct the time line, I was just getting on the bus in Cincinnati when the explosion happened. I either dozed or read during the two-hour journey, so I was pretty much incommunicado.
When I got back to Cincinnati that night, I went to my graveyard-shift job at the IRS, and was glued to the TV for much of the next 2-3 days.
I’m in Sullivant Hall, where I typed many of my entries before getting Internet service at home. Susie is at a Women in Engineering program over at Hitchcock Hall, and since parents and guardians weren’t invited, I’m killing time here, blogging, reading newspapers online, and ignoring the spring training OSU football game (the team divides into two squads and they play each other.) Even though this isn’t an “official” game, the Scarlet and Gray, drunken idiots, and buckeye necklaces were everywhere in sight. Just since I began typing this entry, I have heard sirens going down High St. no less than four times.
Steph’s cardiac catheterization is Monday morning. The procedure itself takes only about 20 minutes, but she has to lie completely still for quite a long time afterwards. We’ve heard conflicting stories–some hospital literature says seven hours, some say 12-15 hours. Steph didn’t want to have it before Monday, because Pat and Tanya are taking us to see Billy Joel at the Schottenstein Center tomorrow night. Susie will be at a sleepover near Lancaster tonight for a birthday party, and she will be spending Sunday and Monday nights (at least!) at Pat and Tanya’s. I suspect she may be there Tuesday night as well, because Steph and I both have a hunch that she’ll be admitted right after the procedure. Whether she’ll go under the knife right away is another story.