Today marks the day Mark, Laila and I arrived in Oklahoma. We pulled into town late at night with a minivan and rented moving truck stuffed with our things and slept at a hotel. I started working at the newspaper the next day.
That was a wild and exciting time for my family.
Elsewhere in Oklahoma, someone was having a much more intense 24 hours.
The day I arrived in Oklahoma was the day two men broke into Sarah McKinley’s isolated mobile home. It sat in a pasture on a far flung edge of a small town called Blanchard that got its first bowling alley last year. The 18-year-old killed one of the intruders with a shotgun as he pushed through her front door armed with a hunting knife. Her husband, 40 years her senior, had died six days earlier. Her 3-month-old baby cried in a back bedroom of the trailer as she pulled the trigger.
I met Sarah McKinley on Jan. 4. She answered the door pointing a shotgun at myself and a photographer. Her cellphone was wedged between her ear and shoulder.
“We’re media,” I said. I think I put my hands in the air somewhat stupidly.
She put the gun on the coffee table and apologized. She was on the phone with Anderson Cooper, could we wait a minute? We agreed and stood on the porch. Then we interviewed her on her living room couch.
Sarah McKinley dramatically illustrated that as human beings, our instinct to survive is strong. That instinct is strongest in a mother challenged to protect her young.
I like being a writer. I’d rather be writing about people besides myself. Their lives are more interesting.
Oklahoma really is OK. Especially if you are a breaking news reporter.
This is what she said on Facebook today about the year anniversary of the killing:
Cant believe today marks one year since two armed intruders forced their way into my house with a twelve inch hunting knife in what I believe was a attempt on my life. I sit here and can remember everything about that day, the way the room smelled the eeriness in the air and the sadness I felt over my beloved kenny that was taken from me just six days before. I can still hear the knock on the door as if it was only yesterday. My emergency call went out at 1:53 pm in which it took responders 22 minutes to arrive. I praise God everyday I had the courage and strength to stand up and protect myself and what I love. Those men changed my life forever. I spent months trying to run from myself thinking if I could escape me it would all be okay, that maybe if I just kept moving nothing could get me or my son. A year ago I would have thought life was over, I let the fear take over and consume me. I never thought i’d be able to stay in a house alone and never dreamed I could ever be back in the country, but somehow I made the decision that I wasnt gonna let them win that I was going to raise my little boy around the things that I always loved so much, he was going to have horses and dogs outside his front door if it was the last thing i ever did and so I worked toward that. Everyday was a attempt to become stronger so that we could live that life again and now one year from that day we are back in the country. I’m able to go outside by myself. I can leave at night and come home in the dark. The fear is still there and inthe back of my mind I know it can happen again . To many If You These Are simple Things That You Don’t even Think About, but having seen the way i was you would understand. I’m far from normal but if this is the best it ever gets than I know I didn’t let them win. Me and Justin are gonna be okay with him I can over come anything. This year had been full of trials but I’ve come out stronger than I ever dreamed I could. God had truly blessed me and for that in thankful