The Homecoming Parade

Updated: Feb 19, 2020

Ya’ll, This is hard…raw emotion right here…shaking and crying.   And just so you know, there might be rambling but keep in mind that this is my therapy so just go with it…
Let me introduce you to Homecoming at Oklahoma State University.  This madness is not your typical dog and pony show but 100,000+ OSU fans (yes, there are that many OSU fans) roll into town every year to celebrate America’s Brightest Orange.  My family is one of many who participate in this event.  It has become a tradition in my household that every October, you go to homecoming.
Every October, we meet together, BS around numerous grills, drink, watch some festivities, drink, watch some football, grill, drink, shop, and do everything else one can do in this little town of Stillwater, Oklahoma.  OSU is a religion. It is sacred.  It is a legacy that is passed down from me to my beautiful family and has been an event attended every year since Brian and I have been married.  Keaton and Tatum (our children) know GO POKES.  They can sing the Alma Mater and yell ‘ride em cowboys’ better than anyone. The two have orange and black blood. Homecoming 2015 started out in just the same way as always: Ahh, yes…the obligatory “go Pokes” pose before we all bundle up and head to the OSU homecoming parade where we will be joined by those 100,000 other silly fans..all dressed in orange, all yelling “go Pokes”.
The night before, Friday night, is the famous “walk-around”.   Here we meet these same 100,000 people on the fraternity and sorority streets to gaze at their enormous house decks.   A parade at 9:00am is NOT something that is exciting to me, but we go because that is what we do for our kids.
We always sit at the end of the parade.  Always.  In the 10 years that we have attended this event, we have never moved off the corner of Hall Fame and Main Street…ever.   We always get to the parade at about 9:30 (mommy has to have coffee first) and plop ourselves on the curb or stand on this corner, waiting for our own former Pistol Pete to come by on his alumni float.  We wave; watch the same things go by, year after year..only this time…”where the hell is my family”.  You’ve got to be kidding me..they switched spots..they can’t be at the beginning of the parade route…we always sit at the END..which is where I am now! …enter choice words directed to my brother here (sorry Derek).  At the request of Brian, I take the girls and we move a few feet down from the corner and decide to sit on the curb.   Brian wants no part of his butt on the cement so he stands a two rows behind us.
It is a beautiful day in Stillwater.   The weather is perfect.   The sun is shining…candy is flowing, as we are in first dibs reach of anything tossed our way.  Keaton is laying on my lap facing main street, her head looking on at the little dancers that have just passed; Tatum at my left..grabbing as much candy as possible.  We are laughing, we are giggling and I remember thinking at that moment, this is what this day is all about: This moment changed my life forever.  The first thing I hear is the crash of this car hit something. I see the pole; at the corner where we ALWAYS sit in previous years…(See photo below) Keaton, Tatum and I are the first people to your left, sitting on the curb, just out of picture shot in the photo (with the circle).  I turn and see this car, this one car, coming toward us and finally stopping when she slams into that pole.  Use your geometry skills here and say a "thank you" to God that the pole was there.  STOP….close your eyes and see what I see..hear what I hear, and smell what I smell…every single day…relive it with me now for the first time in over a year:
the air has a cold smell to it…you know that is fall…coffee, food, and OSU love is in the air.
Listen:  …go pokes, go pokes, mommy candy, mommy my butt hurts, mommy this is so fun..
Hear:  bang, screams…I turn and look and there it is…bang again as the driver hits the pole…
Hear:  glass breaking,
Listen:….screams…I jump up and that split second, I can’t find Keaton because my noise hating daughter has run to find her daddy…"Keaton, Keaton, Keaton!", pure panic in my voice..she’s not to my right, she’s not to my left..
Watch:...I have no idea if that car has stopped…
Smell:   burnt car fluids pouring over the street
Feel: ….I scoop Tatum off that hard cold curb , she’s pissed because I dropped all her candy…"Keaton, Keaton, Keaton, where are you?!"…
Listen…"mommy I want to go…mommy can we go, please, mommy"..thank god I found her…and I already know where my loving husband is at this time…he is in the middle…"please mommy get me out of here…mommy, where is my candy"…
See:  …running, screaming, people on their knees in prayer, screaming\my voice trying to stay strong for my two little girls…I know not to move from my spot until Brian and I can lock eyes…which I can’t see him at many people trying to many people trying to help me..
Listen:  …"mommy, where is my daddy…I want my daddy..what’s happening mommy"
Listen:  …"can we help you…here is my phone…would your girls like to play a game on my phone…what do you need?"
Speak:  …."I’m not moving until I find my husband..he’s a paramedic and I know he’s down there but I can’ see him"..
Listen:  ..."mommy, where is daddy!   I want my daddy…please mommy"..
Speak:  …"Derek, I need you to come and get the girls…something terrible has happened and I  need you to come get them now"
Listen:  ...helicopter after helicopter, ambulance after ambulance, helicopter, screams, crying..
Speak:  …"over here Derek. Dad, take the girls, turn them around so they can’t see the body bags..take them home and I’ll be there as soon as I can"...
Fall:  …collapse…I can no longer be brave..I can no longer be strong…fall…into someone who just holds me and hugs me…
See:  …finally Brian comes back…blood on his hands, knees and clothes…
time…stop….These images are burned into my memory and are what I see; this is what I hear; this is what I smell; this is what my dreams are made of…everyday…for one year
one year ago, my life, as did so many, changed. One year ago, my world, as did so many, became darkened, and my life and my mind now can not move on.   It took ONE ENTIRE YEAR of my life to get a formal diagnosis; it took an entire year of my life to know and understand why I shake, why I freeze, why I lose control, why I can’t breathe; why I can’t move; why the hell I can’t control my mind and the images that continually flash:
Welcome to PTSD.

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