From Tragedy to Hope in OKC
Passion, hope and endurance. Qualities of any good marathon runner. But for Oklahoma City FedEx Express operations manager, Kevin Hayes, these are words that define his commitment to support the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.
I’m sitting with him in his office among plaques and medals, thanking him for his service to the Marathon. Kevin took interest in the race as a courier 10 years ago when it began in 2001. He recounts the day in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 when his life would be changed forever. The day the tragic boming took 168 lives.
The Memorial, even though it is a National Park, does not receive local, state or federal funds. And The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon doesn’t employ even one staff member-the inspiring race is put on through volunteer support. This year, the run raised over $450,000 for the Memorial.
The first year the race was put on there were five thousand runners. In 2009 there were five thousand-plus volunteers. In 2009, 19,000 runners started the 26.2 miles. The race begins with 168 seconds of silence for each of the 168 victims of the Alfred P. Murrow Federal Building.
Along the route, 25 FedEx Express trucks are stationed to provide runners with water and medical supplies. FedEx Freight moves the race’s start and finish line displays. And in 2009, 140 FedEx team members from all FedEx operating companies joined in to volunteer. Kevin tells me they do it on their own time, because it’s important to them. It’s important to the community. And, it’s important to honor the victims.
It isn’t long before Kevin’s energy and excitement about the race spills over and he calls a friend, Thomas Hill III, co-founder of the Memorial Marathon. Thomas told me as he and fellow founder Chet Collier were training for a marathon in Cincinnati, he started to rant about how Oklahoma City didn’t have a marathon. How it was important to have a defining race for a growing metropolitan city. Chet agreed to help him, as long as proceeds went to helping the Memorial.
They stopped dead in their tracks. Runners don’t usually do this mid-run. Runners don’t usually think about others or talk during training runs. As Thomas explains, marathon running is a bit of a self-contained experience. You have to train, eat and sleep right, meet your own goals and in the process forgo things around you—training is about you. However, when marathoners get to the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, they quickly realize it isn’t about them.
Thomas relays a story about how a woman who helped with the grassroots community support efforts talked about that day. That day she took her two grandchildren to daycare in the Murrow Federal building. 5 years later, she speaks of that day as if it was yesterday. She told him everyday since she thinks if she hugged and kissed them good-bye. It was a Tuesday. She thinks she did, but it was just a Tuesday and she doesn’t know for sure.
Thomas eloquently goes on to say the race and the reason for the race is a good metaphor for life. Running is about overcoming obstacles. It’s about adjusting, modifying and it’s about moving on. The Memorial does a little of that for OKC. It helps it to move on. But it also helps everyone to remember. It serves as a reminder that violence isn’t a solution to any problem.
Thomas tells me that his hope is the race helps people love each other. That after thousands of people understand love, they can go back into their communities and love their own. He says Kevin Hayes is one of those people who loves what he does, sacrifices himself for others and is a good example of when people love others, huge things can happen. The race and its success up until now couldn’t have happened without Kevin and the FedEx team members in the city.
Kevin is a manager in Oklahoma City. He has a desk cluttered with paperwork and pictures of his beautiful family. But Kevin represents the best of the city and FedEx citizenship.
Thanks for letting me tell his story.