Murrah Building bombing 20th anniversary

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What follows is my blog entry from the 10th anniversary. My wife and I had visited the memorial a few days before, when we were in town for the Oklahoma Republican Convention. I don't think I can improve upon what was written by those who were there. I've updated links where I could.

Much has been written by those who were in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Rather than try to improve on their work, or even try to meaningfully excerpt it, I'll send you their way. They are all must-reads.

Jan, the Happy Homemaker was picked up by a friend and they went to volunteer at University Hospital. She ended up carrying equipment to the triage site and was overwhelmed by what she saw there.

Don Danz felt the explosion four blocks away, then went with a coworker to look for her dad, who worked in the Murrah Building. Don has a map showing damaged buildings as distant as a mile away.

Mike's Noise has a series of posts: His memories of the day of the bombing, a gallery of links, photos he took in the days and weeks following the bombing, profiles of the perpetrators, and unanswered questions -- what about John Doe No. 2, stories of multiple bombs and multiple explosions, and rumors of advance warning of an attack.

Charles G. Hill links to his reaction to media coverage on the first anniversary of the bombing, and on the 10th anniversary his thoughts on what the perps intended to teach us, and what Oklahoma Citians learned instead about themselves. In a separate entry, Charles links to several other first-person accounts, including this one by Chase McInerney, who was on the scene as a working journalist.

Downtown Guy was there, too:

I was there on April 19th. No, thank God, I wasn't a victim, and I wasn't in the buildings when the blast went off. But I was out there soon after. Without risking letting out who I am, let's just say I was out there serving the public. I saw horrible things I never thought I'd see. I saw a person die. And with all the hype out there right now, the image is haunting me again.

I didn't know how much the bombing effected me until the second anniversary. A procession of victims marched through downtown. I watched. I started sweating. My head felt like it was about to explode. I rushed to an alley next to the old library. I threw up in the weeds.

I remember the initial reports, speculating about a natural gas main explosion, then the suggestion that this might be linked to foreign terrorism (remember, it was just two years since the first attack on the World Trade Center), rumors that some Middle Eastern man had been apprehended at the Oklahoma City airport. They found a part of the bomb truck, tracked the VIN back to a rental outlet in Junction City, Kansas, and before long we had sketches of two John Does. It wasn't much longer with John Doe No. 1 was apprehended near Perry, driving a car without a license plate.

I visited the site three weeks later, just after my second nephew was born a few miles away at Baptist Hospital. The building still stood there, agape, awaiting demolition. Teddy bears, flowers, photos, and other tokens of remembrance lined the chain link fence.

Mikki and I visited the memorial on Sunday [in April 2005]. I am not fond of the memorial. I don't think we know how to build memorials any more, and I don't have high hopes for what will be built at Ground Zero in New York. It's too big, too grand, too sleek, too clean. But there are a few things about it, mainly small, simple, untidy things, that touch the heart:

  • Among the Field of Chairs, 19 chairs aren't as big as the others.
  • The Survivor Tree -- an elm that once stood in the middle of an asphalt parking lot across the street from the blast is now the focal point and the symbol of the memorial. It's the one spot of shade and shelter at the memorial.
  • The graffito, spraypainted on the Journal Record building by a rescue worker: "Team 5 / 4-19-95 / We search for the truth. We seek Justice. The Courts Require it. The Victims Cry for it. And GOD Demands it"
  • The fence -- it's still there, still hung with memories of lives cut short, beautiful young women, bright-eyed kids, moms and dads. It must have driven the memorial's designer nuts to know that this garden-variety chain link fence and its jumble of sentimental trinkets would continue to stand next to the sleek and stark gates.

Two neighboring churches have built their own small memorials across the street. St. Joseph's Old Cathedral has a statue of Jesus, weeping, facing away from the building and toward a wall with 168 niches. A message from the Roman Catholic Bishop of Oklahoma, Eusebius Beltran, explaining the significance of the statue and the design of the memorial, is posted nearby. First Methodist Church built a small open-air chapel shortly after the bombing as a place for prayer and worship for those visiting the site. These two simple shrines far better capture the Spirit that drew rescue workers and volunteers from across the state and the nation to comfort the dying, tend the wounded, search for the lost, clear away the debris, and begin to put a city back together again.

MORE:

Here is Charles G. Hill's reflection on the 20th anniversary of the bombing.

The Oklahoman profiles Frank and Donna Sisson, caretakers for almost 20 years of the open-air Heartland Chapel at First Methodist.

Reporter Jayna Davis has written and updated a book on her investigation of the identity of "John Doe No. 2" and the possible connection to hostile regimes and factions in the Middle East: The Third Terrorist: The Middle East Connection to the Oklahoma City Bombing. Here is a 2011 article by Davis about the declassified 2005 FBI interrogation of convicted bomber Terry
Nichols
:

During the interview, the convicted bomber unleashed a startling admission: John Doe 2 exists. The FBI report states, "Nichols advised that John Doe 2's name had not been mentioned during the (FBI) investigation, and therefore, he feared for his life and his family's well-being should it become public."

The late McCurtain County Gazette journalist J. D. Cash pursued the bombers' connections to the white-supremacist movement. Cash and his work were profiled by Darcy O'Brien in The New Yorker in 1997. On Cash's death in 2007, Mike McCarville wrote:

His writings about the Oklahoma City bombing first gained attention because they included interviews with an undercover IRS operative who maintained that she had warned the government of the plans of right-wing extremists to attack federal buildings in 1995. Cash went on to delve deeper and deeper into Tim McVeigh and others who had lived or visited Elohim City, the religious compound in eastern Oklahoma. Using the Freedom of Information Act, he was able to make a case that the FBI had McVeigh and other members of a gang of Midwest Bank robbers under investigation prior to the 1995 bombing of the Murrah building.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 20, 2015 5:15 AM.

Lee's surrender at Appomattox: 150th anniversary was the previous entry in this blog.

Oklahoma City bombing: The fence, the memorial, the people is the next entry in this blog.

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