On April 19, 1995 I was seeing patients in my family practice office in Tulsa Oklahoma when my medical assistant walked by and told me a bomb had exploded in Oklahoma City, 90 miles away. We didn’t have computers, smart phones or internet so I turned on a radio I kept in my office and soon began hearing news reports that shocked and saddened me. In fact, a massive bomb had exploded at the Federal building in downtown Oklahoma City , something I thought only happened overseas. Who would bomb a building in Oklahoma we all asked ourselves. Several employees heard from friends or relatives who lived in or near OKC, as we call it; some said they felt their homes shake several miles away from the site.
As I drove home from work that afternoon I encountered a traffic jam on a usually easy drive; I thought there must have been a car wreck tying up traffic. It turned out to be a back up of cars trying to get into the local Red Cross blood donation facility; when I finally drove by there was a long line of people waiting to enter.
I picked up my 10 year old son from school and realized the teachers had not told the students . I explained to him what had happened , as well as you can explain something so horrible to a child. He looked at me and said, ” Mom, the 5th graders went to Oklahoma City today.” I remembered seeing the charter bus parked at the school that morning for the annual field trip to the science museum in OKC. I assured him they were safe.
They next morning I turned on the television to watch the morning news while I dressed for work, as I always did. I can’t believe now that I wondered if there would be any news of the bombing on national television; it had dominated our local news the evening before. I turned to the Today show and found that it was broadcasting from OKC, as were all the major networks ,and devoted the entire broadcast to the bombing. I think that was my first inkling what a momentous event it was. I continued watching; soon they interviewed a doctor from St Anthony Hospital, just down the street from the Murrah Building- he was one of my medical school professors, the first time someone I knew personally was on national television.
In the following days, weeks and months we learned all the details about the bombing- the perpetrators, the victims, the rescuers, the survivors. My husband and I visited the site after the wreckage was imploded, and the site was fenced off. The fence became a make shift memorial, as people left mementos of all kinds- dolls, stuffed animals, photos, pictures, flowers, crafts, flags. We visited again when the official memorial and the museum were established. Until 9/11, it was the worst act of terrorism on United States soil.
That day in Oklahoma City showed some of the best in our state and our country as people, some with no training , risked their lives to help rescue people who were injured and trapped inside. Firefighters and police came from all over the United States to help. People donated food and first aid supplies. I was proud to be an Oklahoman then and now, and still grieve for the loss we sustained that day.