Access to Information: Oklahoma City Bombing

It has been 15 years since the Oklahoma City bombing.

I was 11 years old and in the 6th grade. I was also living in a town about 3 hours away from Oklahoma City at that time.
This was before I had a pager/cell phone. We did have the Internet at home but it wasn’t part of my daily life back then. This was also when I was the only deaf kid in grades 2-12 (the 2nd oldest deaf kid was in the 1st grade) in the whole school district. This was also around the time when closed captions chips were finding their way into TVs. All TVs larger than a certain size (I can’t remember the details) have to have closed caption chips in them now. None of the TVs at my school had new TVs and there was only one TV in the whole school building I could watch because it was the only TV with a caption decoder box hooked up to it (remember those big, clunky things).
I’m typing up this post to touch on a different perspective. One that many people don’t think of.
It’s how accessible information is to the deaf community during a time of national emergency. Things have improved over the years with more captioned news shows, access to the Internet, and pagers/cell phones. It’s still no where near where it should be. Deaf New Yorkers who witnessed 9/11 will tell you it’s still a problem…a problem they experienced while their lives were at sake.
I didn’t find out about the OKC bombing until lunchtime even though it had happened around 9am that morning. I’m sure the teachers tried to keep it on the down low but when I found out…no one else seemed surprised. It was like most students already knew about it. Talk about delayed information. Overhearing information is SO important.
I was eating lunch at school and one of the school cafeteria employer turned on the TV in the lunchroom. A TV without captions. All I saw were images without knowing where or what had happened. I finally asked a hearing friend of mine what happened. She just said there was a bombing in Oklahoma City. I didn’t get any additional information even though I could tell people were talking about it. After school, at home my mom offered to interpret some TV news briefings about the bombing since they weren’t captioned. I declined because it’s hard watching someone you care about interpreting something you know would upset them. I also declined because I knew I wouldn’t be able to follow what was being said (it’s hard to watch an interpreter and a TV screen at the same time, resulting in a lot of lost information).
I missed out on all the emotions everyone shared with each other. I missed out on all the discussions. I missed out on the acceptance process people go through together by sharing their thoughts. I didn’t have access to any of that information because the social media simply wasn’t accessible at that time and I couldn’t overhear conversations.
I was clueless. I felt so dependent upon others to supply me information. I knew the information I got was being filtered and minimized. I felt so isolated and powerless without knowledge. I felt lonely…like everyone knew what was going on but no one felt it was important to share such critical information with me. I was embarrassed that I didn’t understand what was going on when everyone else did. What I understood was what I saw through images via photos/video clips on TV. I felt left behind when everyone else felt they pulled together as a community.
Never take information for granted. Share information with people around you.

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