Posted by Dr. Wade Smith on October 23, 2013
As the father of Norman North band students, I cleared my schedule to travel to Lawton to watch their state competition performance. As I left Norman one of my daughters called me. “Dad, you need to pray for the Norman High Band. Their bus is on fire. We are stopped on the highway and we can see the black smoke. All the kids are safe, but they have lost uniforms, instruments, and their personal things.” The deafening siren passing by her bus confirmed in a very sobering way the surreal truth of her report. I made my way down the turnpike and at mile marker fifty traffic came to a stop. Twenty minutes later we began to move. After three slow miles, I passed the charred remains of the bus, amazed and grateful that no one was hurt.
I continued on to Lawton and arrived to see the T-Wolves Band march and receive all superior ratings. After their performance I went to find my girls. It was there that something transformational was happening. Word was spreading that Norman High would march. They had worked too hard. They were not going to let the fire deny them their state competition performance. Their ordeal had produced courage and determination. In the moments that followed, I saw North flutists, clarinetists, and others offer their instruments to High students. As the High band made their way to rehearse, the North band applauded. When the High band entered the field, the North band sat mid-field to cheer on their neighbors. Dressed in t-shirts, shorts, black socks and shoes, the High band gave an inspiring performance, also earning all superior ratings. The North band and all present stood to applaud and appreciate High’s courage and skill. The moment was transcendent. We experienced something we would never forget.
Those familiar with the Old Testament know the story of Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3. The burning bush was the transformational event in the life of Moses. In that moment God revealed Himself to Moses and declared His plans for Moses. Nothing would ever be the same for him.
The burning bus could have been unspeakably tragic. Yet, by the grace of God and the quick response of students and teachers no one was hurt. Stuff can be replaced, lives cannot. Yet, I can’t help but marvel at how God revealed Himself through the events of Tuesday. I saw students choosing courage over fear, sharing over selfishness, and community over provincialism. Rivals became neighbors. As instruments were returned, hugs were given, and pictures were taken, I overheard one High student say to her North counterparts, “why does something bad have to happen to bring us together?” That is the kind of question that stirs our hearts when God is present.
The truth is that tornados, bus fires, and other bad things aren’t necessary to bring us together. Jesus calls to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. The Apostle Paul says to consider others as more important than yourself. If we committed ourselves to these things, we would experience community at greater and deeper levels on a regular basis. But, too often, we get caught up in the rivalries and selfishness of life. Bad things are the sobering events that cause us to remember the important things of life: like sharing your flute or your clarinet with a neighbor.
Thank you High and North bands for inspiring us through your bus experience. May God use your example to inspire and lead Norman to deeper levels of community and neighborliness. You will never be the same and neither will we!