Woman Offers Words of Understanding for Bombing Survivors
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Outside the remains of the bombed federal building, Victoria Cummock spotted a briefcase, wide open and flapping in the wind.
Her mind jumped back six years to another attache case, this one rocking in a breeze just beyond the scattered pieces of Pan Am Flight 103. It belonged to John, her husband and father of their three young children.
``I’ve been through the dark valley,″ the 42-year-old widow says. ``I’m coming from a much stronger place now.″
John Cummock and 269 others were killed when a terrorist bomb blew up their flight over Lockerbie, Scotland, on Dec. 21, 1988. Ms. Cummock visited Oklahoma City for 10 days in the aftermath of the April 19th bombing, lending an understanding ear to some families of the victims and offering advice to mental health workers.
In a memorial service for the victims, President Clinton quoted a letter from her to comfort the grieving. He later called her home in Coral Gables, Fla., to thank her for helping him find the right words.
``I try to offer them a little bit of hope by telling them I’m six years down the road,″ Ms. Cummock said in a telephone interview from her home. ``It will be hard, but they will get through it.″
The lives of survivors will never return to normal after the bombing, Ms. Cummock says.
``You have to help them cope with their new life, not get back to their old life, because it’s not there,″ she said. Ms. Cummock also advises that survivors ``not let the terrorist win and take their lives, too.″
John Cummock, a marketing vice president, was heading home on Pan Am flight 103 from a business trip to England, expecting to have Christmas with his family.
Ms. Cummock learned about his death from her sister, who heard it on the radio. No one from the U.S. government called to offer condolences or information, she says. Families watched the grisly images of rescuers picking through the wreckage in hopes of hearing news of loved ones.
``To get information that way was horrific,″ Ms. Cummock said.
She credits the lobbying efforts of those who lost family in the Pan Am bombing for survivor-oriented services in Oklahoma City, including a family outreach center that provides information on the missing, counseling and help with other needs.
``My heart was really warmed by what I saw _ everything I hoped would happen to take care of families in this really dark time,″ she said.
After her husband’s death, Ms. Cummock vowed to use the hard lessons she learned to help others. She juggles her roles as an interior designer, lobbyist and mother, noting that her life is one of ``car pools, presidents and plumbers.″
Right now, she wants to assure the families of the 168 people killed in Oklahoma City that they are not alone in their sorrow. And most of all, that they will not be forgotten.
``If you forget about it, it will happen again,″ she said.