The City Sentinel

Readers Remember the Murrah Building Bombing

Darla Shelden Story by on April 18, 2015 . Click on author name to view all articles by this author. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.
The Journal Record Building, and Survivor Tree Shadow. Photo by David Fisk, used with permission, from his book.

The Journal Record Building, and Survivor Tree Shadow. Photo by David Fisk, used with permission, from his book.

Compiled by Pat McGuigan

In response to a request from editor Patrick B. McGuigan, dozens of readers submitted their memories of April 19, 1995 and the bombing of the A.P. Murrah Federal Buildling via email or Facebook postings. This compilation from 2014, lightly edited, follows. Readers are invited to send additional recollections to McGuigan at ckane6@aol.com.

Rabbi Ovadia Goldman: “I was in Detroit, Michigan shopping for some vegetables for our Passover meals. As a New Yorker I had flashbacks from the 1993 twin tower bombing and immediately felt a kinship with OKC, a city that I had not known much about at that time.”

Lealon Taylor [state government employee]: “I was at the Oklahoma state department of education in my office. I thought the outside doors to my office were being broken in to. Never heard that sound before. I heard later the federal building had been destroyed by a gas leak. Governor [Frank] Keating sent all state employees home as concern for the safety of all state employees grew as more information came out. Terrible day for Oklahoma.”

Beverly Blagg McClendon: “I had a 9 a.m. appointment in Social Security [which officed at the Murrah Building]. When I got up that morning my back was killing me. I laid down on a heating pad and fell asleep. My husband, married one month, called in a panic telling me on the answering machine to please pick up the phone. It was 9:10 a.m. He knew I was supposed to be there. Needless to say, I was grateful for a  painful back that morning.”

Pamela Ruth Henry [retired TV journalist]: “Oh, my gosh, Beverly Blagg McClendon! [Above] Thank our good Lord that you are still with us. Pat McGuigan, each one of these stories is fascinating. You have material here for outstanding articles or a book.”

Danna Fowble: “I was in Kansas City, Missouri, manning a tradeshow booth for Frontier Country Marketing Association, which was housed in the Journal Record Building. Our Executive  Director was thrown across his desk and survived w a few cuts and glass in his head.”

Carla Splaingard [an Oklahoma City Realtor]: “Andrew [her son] had a doctor’s appointment downtown. We heard and felt the blast. I  hugged my son all the way back to school [Rosary] School.”

Pamela Ruth Henry: “I was at home ill on April 19, 1995. At 9:02AM, I opened my back door to the south to let my dog out. I heard and felt the blast. After that, came the sound of more emergency vehicle sirens than I had ever experienced before. I turned on my TV and knew that Oklahoma City had changed forever.”

Brooke Harry [a radio journalist]: “I was in the dentist’s chair at SW 89th and Penn, undergoing a checkup when we heard (and felt) the explosion. We thought it was a wicked natural gas boom a few blocks away. Then the receptionist called the Dr. Heath to the lobby to watch the first TV reports. He never returned to my exam. His father, Dr. Charles Heath, was in his own office in the Murrah Building. The elder Dr. Heath survived the blast and was among those whose rescue was filmed in graphic detail. He became the spokesman for the victims and in the days to come was interviewed many times.”

David Van Risseghem: “In a paint booth, & listening to talk radio. The first reports mentioned what appeared to be an explosion from a natural gas leak. The witnesses were not able to clearly see the damage. Then, a report mentioned that a whole side of the building was gone.”

Porter Davis [former Oklahoma state legislator]: “I was conducting a sales meeting in my radio station about 5 miles away. Heard rumbling explosion(s), the room shook, and a few specks fell from the ceiling. In a few minutes the DJ told us to turn on the TV. I had driven by the site leaving the Mayor’s prayer breakfast earlier that morning.”

David Tackett [an Oklahoma conservative leader]: “I was supposed to get a replacement Social security card at the Murrah building that morning, but I overslept at my dorm room at UCO, only to be waken up by the blast.”

Hayley Joan Thompson: “It was my Senior year in High School and was in the Putnam City High School Drama room. I was dating Jason Salyers, whose mother is Pricilla Salyers, a survivor of the bombing. I spent most of the day with his little brother… Glued to the TV and waiting for the phone to ring.”

Michael Ridgeway: “I was sitting in my office near SW 119th and Penn, and I heard a ‘bang’ and felt the building shake. I thought a truck had hit the building, so I went outside and looked around. A minute later, a friend called and said, ‘Turn on the television. There has been an explosion downtown.’ ”

Teresa Turner: “I was teaching at Tenkiller School and during a break between classes the secretary told us about it. She had one of those little seven-inch black & white TVs on her desk and we all crowded around watching news coverage. I still remember the pictures of the children and later of the man crawling down the ladder with the fireman guiding him down.”

Clifton Ogle: wrote, “I was teaching a class and when the announcement was made of what was happening, one of my students left the room to find out if her mother was alive.”

Barbara Dew Rupert: “I was in the family room of our house near the Belle Isle Library about six miles from the Murrah Building, getting ready to take our two younger sons, Jake and Ben, to Mother’s Day Out at First Christian Church (Nick was already in first grade at Bishop John Carroll School.) Now I am trying to remember, did I hear the explosion first or feel the earth shake? I tried to make sense of it, and thought that a plane might have crashed into 50 Penn Place [a nearby shopping center], but surely not… Rery strange to remember this rationalization, years before 9/11. I distinctly remember seeing Ben, who had just turned three, standing in the doorway to the hall as he started to cry. I comforted him and we proceeded as usual. All seemed normal until I turned the car from the NW Expressway south onto Classen Boulevard and saw an intense, black cloud of smoke over downtown. As I remember it, the cloud was not streaming as from a fire. It was more like a single, intense cloud. And I thought, something very bad has happened.”

Casey Cornett: “I was sitting in Ms. Maher’s 6th grade English class at Cooper Middle School when the building shook. From what I remember, none of the students in my class ever thought it was something like the bomb it turned out to be.”

Rhonda Davis: “I was sitting in my office with my back to the window. Bam .. bam! I turned fully expecting to find something crashing thru the window. Then came shock while staring at the TV as they tried to tell us what was going on. And ever after this time of year, a sense of being lost, and then I realize why.”

Chris Budde: “I was reading the newspaper, chastising myself for not going on my greeting card route the way I’d planned that day. To the Murrah Building.”

Lauren Allen Hammack: “I was in a hospital bed at Mercy, where I had just delivered our third child. The nurse was typing my son’s birth certificate at my bedside when the explosion sounded. The force of the explosion shook my hospital bed (some 14 miles north of the Murrah Building) so violently, the nurse was convinced a heavy piece of equipment had fallen over in the next room. A few minutes later, an orderly came in to announce that there would be no doctors coming through that day; they had all gone directly to the site.”

Lesli Massad: “I was at the [state] Capitol, making my morning ‘rounds’ visiting with the folks there. We just thought it was some of the workers moving something in the rotunda.”

Benjamin H. Odom: “My wife called and said the hospital had gone code black. I was to be at the [Murrah] Building that day, but had switched my morning appointment for one in the afternoon.”

Lisa L.: “I was in a forensic anthropology class at the University of North Texas.”

Ron Yates: “I arrived within the first 45 minutes of the blast.

Scott Lancaster: “I was in between shows while working on a cruise ship backstage and didn’t know what it was because we got raw uncut satellite feed. Then they said what building it was in Oklahoma City and my jaw and heart dropped because it dawned on me that I helped install most of the computers there in the Journal Record Building, and became friends with most of them.”

Jane Rippeto: “It’s a forgotten tragedy. American Terrorist. I was at work at a law firm in Denver. We watched it unfold on TV. Some Said it was a foreign attack. I said no. Not in Oklahoma.”

Karyn Forsythe: “I was in Atlanta, GA. visiting. I was helping my daughter [Suzy] clean the bar where she use to work off of Delk Road; and when I looked up and saw that stuff on T.V. I freaked out, hoping everyone was okay, being that 3 of my 4 children lived in Oklahoma City.”

David Fisk [a reporter at The Oklahoman]: “At the Oklahoman. I was on the 8th floor. I ran to the windows and stood with [executive editor] Ed Kelley and Joe Hight [another editor].watching the smoke curl up. … I still have all the special sections we put out.”And also from Fisk: “We still had pages to do unrelated to the bombing. So we carried on, reporters and photographers were dispatched quickly. I think we put out an extra section for a month. …”

Heide Brandes [newspaper reporter]: “I was a baby cub reporter in Madill. It was my first major disaster story.”

William Liedtke [a city businessman]: “I was headed south on the Centennial Expressway [Interstate 235] coming up the overpass over NW 23rd Street and saw the plume of smoke erupting from the building just as I crested the rise. As I flew out of town that afternoon, the airport was jammed with national press flying in.”

Rick Hensley: “I was on my way to an Emergency Management meeting at the Military Academy. We didn’t have that meeting.”

Denise Riley Castelli: “I was 8 months pregnant with my fourth child and standing in my kitchen talking to my cousin in St. Louis about the adoption of her future child that was to take place in OKC. This was in Warwick, near Putnam City North High School, and my windows shook like it was down the street. My husband was on the phone in the next room with someone in a building near the explosion downtown. She screamed and hung up just seconds before our house shook.”

Beverly Bryant [at the time, a reporter at the Oklahoman]: “I saw your request and things came back to me in a flash. I was on the day news desk at The Oklahoman when the building shook violently. We all looked around as the public service radios started blaring at the empty city editor’s desk — they didn’t come in until later in the day. We had no idea what had happened for several minutes. At first I thought the building had been hit by a news helicopter from Channel 4. Don Gammill [a colleague] finally saw the smoke rising from downtown, but that didn’t make sense to us — thinking it was a fire rather than a bombing. …Eventually we started understanding the story as it unfolded and started seeing and reading coverage from our friends downtown. Several coworkers were in the area at the courthouse, the post office, the YMCA …
[Later,] I was struck dumb as I watched the FBI storm the farm owned by Terry Nichols’ brother in the northeast. Clytie Bunyan was standing next to me, blood in her shoes and debris still in her hair. She had been in the post office to get a passport for her infant son and the building caved in around her. She was there next to me, obviously wounded, and I was watching the FBI trying to find the person who had hurt her and killed so many others. I don’t know that it makes sense to me even today. Other memories later filled my brain, but that was the first cogent moment I had of the overall event. I also remember we could not publish an extra edition that day because there was already a special section on the press. That was very hard for all of us.”

Lester Claraval [a state government employee] wrote: “I was getting ready to leave my parents place in Midwest City [just east of Oklahoma City] when I heard a loud boom thinking at the time it must of been a sonic boom from Tinker [Air Force Base; I didn’t think anything of it. As I’m on the Interstate 44, I couldn’t understand why there were so many emergency vehicles with sirens on all heading toward the direction of downtown. I turned the radio to finally learn what had happened and was in disbelief when I saw the live television coverage of the horrible act that just happened right here in OKC. ”

Brad Yarborough: “I was at home. Enjoying nice morning relaxing in patio room.  Glass shook, but never before like this.  The phone rang, the caller urging me to turn on the TV.  The coverage reported a horrific tragedy.  I prayed, like countless others, ‘what can I do?’ In my car, I started towards downtown and passed a blood donation center with an enormously long line stretching outside its door. Later, I arrived near St. Anthony Hospital and walked into its emergency room amid the echoes of sirens from incoming ambulances being met by dozens of stretchers, each waiting to wheel the wounded, innocent victims to awaiting teams of physicians. And, as you might suspect, the family members of Murrah Building employees were increasingly arriving to ask hospital authorities, ‘do you have my loved one here?’ With the help of other caring Oklahomans, a room was transformed into a place to assist family members. Soon, by communicating with the other area hospitals, a list was posted of those who were identified as admitted at each facility. Food, drink…and, most important, hugs and prayers were shared with worried, shaken, perplexed and terribly upset family members. And, it seemed to help, even if just a little. It was in first few hours of the response. It was a part, a piece of what would become ‘the Oklahoma standard.’  The Family Assistance Center would be established soon afterwards at the First Christian Church.  ‘Darkness covered the earth but God said, Let there be light.’ Like you, I felt the evil darkness that enveloped our city at 9:02 but, starting at 9:03, I witnessed the transformational emergence of a great light which showered our city with love and care for one another. Yes, I’m forever changed.”

Leslie D. Turner Owens: “I was in a meeting at work [Jordan Associates, a public relations and advertising firm], where Chamber of Commerce clients were attending for our campaign, ‘ People are talking about Oklahoma City.’ We felt a shake (at Wilshire and Western Ave.) – turned on the news, and one client panicked when the YMCA daycare mentioned…she had a child attending there, and did not know the child was safe until 4 p.m. The campaign, we pulled. We had a clipping service and got a bill exceeding $10,000 from service after we received newspaper clips from across the country that made mention of Oklahoma City. I believe we got a little of that cost shaved off…but there were boxes and boxes and boxes of clips.”

Christy Harris Thompson: “I was working at Dr. [Allen] Metz’s  office and Claude Rogers called and told us. We were all put on stand by alert at the hospital because they were expecting many injured to come but sadly so many perished on site that the injured were treated at hospitals closer to the Murrah Building.”

David Cottrell: “I passed the building just before 9:00 heading to Interstate 235. I must have been under Fifth Street when the truck blew up. My wife called me in the car to find out where I was. I was crossing over 23rd Street, I could see the smoke from the building in my rearveiw mirror.”

Cody Graves: “I was in my car with my two sons on Fifth Street just east of Robinson.”

Karen Stark: “I was a Navy wife, living in Japan and driving taxis for a Japanese company on Yokosuka Naval Base. A couple of nights before a Marine and I were discussing where to live after Ray got out. He said, ‘Why don’t you move back to Oklahoma City where it’s safe?’ I often wonder if he also thought back to that conversation when he heard the news. I sure did.”

Robin Dorner [an Oklahoma City journalist]: “Ken [her husband] and I lived in an apartment at NW Hwy & Independence. The whole building shook. I though some car exploded behind us!”

Shelly Hickman: “Working at the state Department of Education. I felt a tremor and a sound I could only describe to a co-worker at the time as glass shattering, which I knew sounded weird but it’s what I heard. We turned on the TV to learn if something had happened nearby and, a few hours later, were dismissed (along with all state workers) to go home by Gov. Keating in light of the threats the governor’s office was receiving on state buildings and employees. Frightening, horrifying day.”

Dora McGuigan Groll: “I was sitting at home watching TV, then made phone calls to Oklahoma to check on my family living there,  making sure they were all safe and sound.”

Gina Hunt: “I was in the court house next door…horrific images….”

Wenda Blankenship: “I was opening my sandwich shop in Idabel, OK. I went to visit my friend in the store next to mine and she told me what was happening. We watched with our children at our side on her little TV in her office, and prayed.”

Saad Mohammed: “I was counting my Pepsi truck when I heard the explosion. The ground shook. I was in Edmond.”

Julia Seay: “My husband had just left the house to take my two daughters to Mothers Day Out just down the street when the boom shook my windows in Yukon. I flipped on the radio, then the TV and started watching the coverage. Shortly after, they started scrolling a list of needs for the First Responders, and I called my company, Mary Kay, and was put straight through to the President. I read him the list as it scrolled across TV, and they were filling a semi with sunscreen, moisturizer, etc. as we talked. I watched the coverage, including the largest APB in American history for the TWO men who got out of the Ryder truck, including John Doe #2, Hussain al-Hussaini. The rest of the history is best logged in Jayna Davis’ book, ‘The Third Terrorist.’ I still hope that some day someone will bring him to justice.”

Jose Hernandez [an Oklahoma City native]: “I was working at EDS in Plano, Texas. I remembered how I had gone into the building several times over the years. When I saw the list of the dead, it included a paralegal who had been my student at Rose State College. I was impacted greatly when I saw the damage to the YMCA where I had spent so many hours playing hoops and working out. The damage to [St. Joseph Old Cathedral] was very impacting as well.”

Paul Moore: “As I was walking across my office at the Scout Service Center at 64th and May, I felt a tremor. I looked out my window and saw a brown dust cloud rising, followed by gray smoke. Our world had changed.”

Gary Atkinson: “Sitting at my desk In the First City Place building just two short blocks to the south of the Federal Building.”

Don Burdick: “I was at work. Then heard about my friend who worked in the Murrah Building. He stopped for coffee at McDonalds, and therefore was 10 minutes late. He later saw that a chunk of concrete crashed down on his office chair, but fortunately he wasn’t there.”

Dina Jackson Elder: “Sitting on the cafeteria floor watching a summer camp information film at Christ the King School. All the doors and windows started shaking, some teachers took off running to the office. Found out soon after an explosion occurred downtown, found out more when I got home.”

Greg “Egg Man” Moore: “I was about a week or two into a new job in Charlotte, North Carolina. I immediately called my parents who lived at 44th and Penn to see what they knew. My mother told me it sounded like someone had crashed a plane in their back yard.”

Margaret Carignan: “I was hiking in the Grand Canyon with [husband] Gerald and didn’t hear about it until we hiked out on that same day and was very worried about all of you in Oklahoma.”

David Holt: “I was waiting to deliver my campaign speech for student council in the spring semester of my sophomore year at Putnam City North High School.”

Nancy Roberts Stirman: “PERRY, OK — In bed, I was ill. The TV was on Channel 9, I saw Chopper 9 film, and a report of a Gas Explosion about 9:09 a.m.. An hour later, I called Noble County Courthouse Assessor First Deputy and then turned on TV or Radio as the evidence was horrible with major damage & fatalities … That night the Noble County JAIL was where one Timothy McVeigh would sleep that night. I remembered thinking thank you to Charlie Hanger for going up to see about [former] Governor Bellmon in Billings that morning on Interstate 35 headed North.”

Johnny Roy: “I was then teaching at University Hospital with my residents when we heard the blast & may have even felt the reverberation, immediately”

Mike Delaney: ”I had just completed a twelve hour shift at work (hospital in Guthrie, OK) and trying to go to sleep, got a call from the m-i-l, telling us that the boom we felt and heard was the Murrah Building.”

Barbara Atkinson: “As a young mom at home in Edmond, had just finished cleaning the kitchen and was heading back to a bedroom to do some volunteer work, when — BOOM, BOOM! The house shook and windows rattled. The dog and I looked at each other; I looked out the patio door and saw a plane high overhead. I thought, ‘Those flyboys at Tinker are going to get in trouble… They’re not supposed to do that anymore.’ Then, got the first real news from KCSC [public radio in Edmond].”

Melani Traveldiva Roewe: “I had just dropped my son off at Rosary school at 19th and Penn. I was going to go downtown to get breakfast at my in-laws’ deli in the [underground] concourse, but decided against it. Instead, I was at the drive-up window at McDonalds on 23rd St at Shepherd Mall when the bomb detonated. The concussion shook my car. Back in the deli, my father-in-law was thrown across the counter. Thankfully, he wasn’t hurt.”

Tom Daxon: “I was at my desk as [state] Director of Finance going over the morning mail. Thought it probably was a sonic boom from a jet flying too fast.”

Charles W. Potts: “I was working on a life insurance proposal for an insurance broker, in my office on the 3rd floor of Leadership Square. I heard the explosion, which seemed to come from above me. I wondered if an airplane had hit the building on it’s way to Downtown Airpark. I went down to the ground floor and out the north building entrance and saw a lot of building insulation everywhere. Then I walked up Robinson and was able to see through the Murrah Building. I thought there may have been a natural gas explosion.”

Jacqueline Scott Bateman: “”I was at work when I heard the explosions that rattled my office wall of windows. I was a law student at OCU, & when I got to class at the Sarkeys Center that night, I learned that the students in class that morning hadn’t heard or felt a thing because most of the classrooms were underground. It must’ve been like being in a bunker. I was told that after class when they went outside, they had no idea anything had happened. It will forever be one of those rare times that we will remember where we were and what we were doing (at least it will be for me).”

Jeff Olbert: “I was literally running from a gate in Houston airport to another gate to catch a Miami flight, running by monitors, slowed to a jog, to a fast walk , to shuffle to a dead stand still, my jaw dropping and stunned in disbelief .”

www.CapitolBeatOK.com

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