NORMAN — 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 50, 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 Norman North flutists, clarinetists and others offer their instruments to Norman High students.
As the Norman High band made their way to rehearse, the Norman North band applauded. When the Norman High band entered the field, the Norman North band sat mid-field to cheer on their neighbors.
Dressed in T-shirts, shorts, black socks and shoes, the Norman High band gave an inspiring performance, also earning all superior ratings. The Norman North band and all present stood to applaud and appreciate Norman 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 Tuesday’s events. I saw students choose 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 Norman High student say to her Norman 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 tornadoes, 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 said 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, Norman High and Norman 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.