We Will Never Forget: My seven most memorable stories on the Oklahoma City bombing

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By Bobby Ross Jr.

At 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, I had just stepped off The Oklahoman’s eighth-floor newsroom elevator when we heard the boom and saw the smoke in the distance.

In all, 168 people died in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City — the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil until 9/11 six years later.

Twenty years ago today, my Oklahoman colleagues and I found ourselves covering the biggest story of our lives, even as we joined our grieving community in shedding tears over an unfathomable tragedy.

I was blessed to tell many stories of victims and survivors. Here are links to seven of the most memorable:

1. Neighbor cares for boys when mom doesn’t return

Thirteen-year-old Ricky Hill and his brother Jonathan, 11, waited up late Wednesday hoping to hear from their mother.

Even as they drifted off to sleep, they clung to hope that Army recruiter Lola Renee Bolden, a 40-year-old single parent, had survived a thunderous bomb blast.

But her call never came.

The boys’ distress turned into a real-life nightmare about 1 a.m. Thursday.

That’s when three men and a woman, all clad in their best Army green, arrived at the door with the horrible news.

Neighbor Mechelle Murray, a single parent with children herself, had taken in the next-door neighbor boys when their mother failed to return home.

Even while calming Ricky and Jonathan, Murray had feared the worst.

“I immediately thought, ‘Oh my God, Renee works in that building,’ ” the 38-year-old accounting student said of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

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Studies in ethical fandom: Is it ever appropriate to leave a major-league baseball game early?

“Take me out to the ball game” is my blog on major-league ballparks and the wonders of witnessing America’s favorite pastime up close.

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By Bobby Ross Jr.

So you want to be a true major-league baseball fan.

With my friend Steve Holladay and his son, Griffin, at a Texas Rangers game this week.

With my friend Steve Holladay and his son, Griffin, at a Texas Rangers game this week.

Understanding the unwritten rules for supporting your team will help.

For instance, a new fan might ask: “Is it ever appropriate to leave a game early?”

The quick, easy answer, of course, would be: “No!”

But at some point, you may find yourself in a real-life game situation that prompts you to inquire — even as play continues on the field — “Should I stay or should I go?”

Let’s circle the bases with some hypothetical examples:

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Ghost Town Park: Five tips for enjoying major-league baseball in a nearly empty stadium

“Take me out to the ball game” is my blog on major-league ballparks and the wonders of witnessing America’s favorite pastime up close.

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By Bobby Ross Jr.

Last night’s Rangers game apparently wasn’t the hottest ticket in town.

Texas’ 6-3 loss to Los Angeles occurred before the smallest home crowd in nearly five years, reported Evan Grant of The Dallas Morning News.

With friends at last night's Rangers game in Arlington, Texas.

With friends at last night’s Rangers game in Arlington, Texas.

There were Angels in the outfield but not too many fans in the bleachers, as the Monday night game drew 18,401 fans to Ghost Town Park — er, Globe Life Park — in Arlington.

Why the small crowd? Weather probably played a role, with rain in the forecast and temperatures in the low 60s. The Rangers’ injury situation — including the loss of key pitchers Yu Darvish and Derek Hollandhas hurt confidence in the team’s chances. Moreover, even if the weather were perfect and the team on a winning streak, weeknight games during the school year tend to draw fewer fans than usual.

But for the baseball faithful who made it to the ballpark — including a group of friends and me — last night’s game was a wonderful experience.

Here are five tips for enjoying major-league baseball in a nearly empty stadium:

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Churches of Christ in decline: U.S. culture to blame?

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Churches of Christ in decline: U.S. culture to blame? (reporting from Tulsa, Okla.): Changing society poses a challenge for Christians.

TULSA, Okla. — In 21st century America, who might attract Jesus’ attention?

Muslims? Drug addicts? Religious “nones.”

The recent Tulsa Workshop — the free annual gathering started in 1976 and known for many years as the “International Soul Winning Workshop” — explored outreach to all three groups.

“When Jesus saw the crowds, he was moved with compassion for them,” said Shane Coffman, who works with Terry Rush to direct the four-day event, which drew roughly 3,000 attendees in its 40th year. “That’s how we ought to be as we serve our community and engage our culture.”

Like many denominational groups, Churches of Christ in the United States are losing members.

In a nation where an increasing number of Americans never go to church, engaging the culture poses a God-sized challenge.

Last year, 43 percent of U.S. adults said they had not attended church in at least six months, reported the Barna Group, which studies religious trends.

“There is a discernible rise of churchless Americans,” Barna President David Kinnaman told The Christian Chronicle.

Related story: God at work in U.S.: Christians in all 50 states weigh in

These stories appear in the April 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.

Opening Day 2015: ‘People will come, Ray. People will most definitely come’

“Take me out to the ball game” is my blog on major-league ballparks and the wonders of witnessing America’s favorite pastime up close.

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By Bobby Ross Jr.

Ray. People will come, Ray.

They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past.

“Of course, we won’t mind if you look around,” you’ll say. “It’s only $20 per person.”

They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it — for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers, sit in their shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon.

And they’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game. And it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters.

The memories will be so thick, they’ll have to brush them away from their faces.

People will come, Ray.

The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball.

America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time.

This field, this game, it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good and that could be again.

Ohhhhh, people will come, Ray. People will most definitely come.

— James Earl Jones (“Field of Dreams,” 1989)

Opening Day is Monday.

It’s New Year’s, Christmas and the Fourth of July wrapped into one.

All will be right with the world again, Ray. All will be most definitely right.

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Forgiving a racist chant

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Forgiving a racist chant (reporting from Oklahoma City): Amid national outrage over a video referencing the N-word and lynchings, a Christian senator seeks to bring healing. 

OKLAHOMA CITY — State Sen. Anastasia Pittman chose forgiveness over bitterness.

Pittman — the only African-American female among Oklahoma’s 149 legislators — made national headlines when she stood beside an expelled University of Oklahoma fraternity member at a March 25 news conference. Levi Pettit, who is white, apologized for his role in a racist chant caught on video.

But what brought the respected state senator and the disgraced frat boy to the same stage?

“I can’t promote Christianity or Christ-like values in policy, and then when I have an opportunity to forgive, I don’t,” Pittman, a longtime member of the Northeast Church of Christ in Oklahoma City, told The Christian Chronicle.

The 44-year-old Democrat recalled the conversion of Saul in the Book of Acts: “He was bold in his persecutions of Christians. But on the road to Damascus, he had a change of heart. He became a prisoner of Christ. He became bold in saving and winning souls.”

With regard to 20-year-old Pettit, she said, “I think this young man has a bright future.”

This story appears in the April 2015 print edition of The Christian Chronicle.