Month: April 1995

April 1995: The Oklahoman

Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)
April 21, 1995, Friday CITY EDITION
Neighbor Cares for Boys When Mom Doesn’t Return

BYLINE: Bobby Ross Jr., Staff Writer

SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 1

LENGTH: 489 words

Thirteen-year-old Ricky Hill and his brother Jonathan, 11, waited
up late Wednesday hoping to hear from their mother.

Even as they drifted off to sleep, they clung to hope that Army
recruiter Lola Renee Bolden, a 40-year-old single parent, had
survived a thunderous bomb blast.

But her call never came.

The boys’ distress turned into a real-life nightmare about 1
a.m. Thursday.

That’s when three men and a woman, all clad in their best Army
green, arrived at the door with the horrible news.

Neighbor Mechelle Murray, a single parent with children
herself, had taken in the next-door neighbor boys when their mother
failed to return home.

Even while calming Ricky and Jonathan, Murray had feared the
worst.

“I immediately thought, Oh my God, Renee works in that
building,’ ” the 38-year-old accounting student said of the bombing
of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

The Army personnel, who included a chaplain, revealed rescuers
had pulled Bolden unconscious from the federal building’s wreckage,
Murray said.

But the 15-year Army veteran, who worked in a fourth-floor
recruiting station, had not survived.

The news devastated the boys.

Ricky, who already had red eyes from earlier crying, broke down
after the Army people left. But Jonathan held back his tears.

“(Jonathan) talked about his mother and how he always told her
he loved her,” Murray said. “She had turned 40 on April 1st, and he
was proud of the birthday card and picture he made her. “
The card and picture remained on Bolden’s door Thursday as her
children awaited arrival of relatives from Alabama.

The single mother had transferred from Colorado to Oklahoma just
last January.

Asked about the move, Ricky mumbled softly that his mother might
still be alive if they’d stayed in Colorado.

“She was kind, funny,” he said, when asked what people should
know about her. “Kind of a clean person,” he added, laughing.

Asked if he had a fondest memory, he replied, “Lots of them.

We’d have pillow fights and stuff. “

Thinking a little more, he added, “She tried to get us what we
want. “

“In other words, you’re spoiled,” Murray interjected, with a
smile.

Lying on a bed watching television, Jonathan was polite when
approached.

But, as he was slowly eating an ice cream sandwich, he said he
could not think of anything to say.

Murray took responsibility for the neighbor boys because their
mother’s death left them with no Oklahoma family ties.

Bolden and her sons rented a second-floor condominium next door
to the Murrays at Piccadilly Square, 2600 N Ann Arbor Ave.
Through their sons, Bolden and Murray developed a friendship,
though their busy lives prevented a close relationship .

Murray was a picture of calm during most of her interview with
The Oklahoman, but she broke down in tears as she contemplated the
boys’ fate.

“What hit home to me ,” she said , “was that she had no family
here. “

Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)

May 15, 1995, Monday CITY EDITION
Injured Fight To Rebuild After Bombing

BYLINE: Bobby Ross Jr., Bryan Painter, Staff Writers

SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 1

LENGTH: 1640 words

More than three weeks after the bombing that nearly killed him,
Fred Kubasta leans back in his reclining chair, a yellow blanket
covering his propped-up legs.

Flowers, cards and letters, including a child’s note that begins
“Dear blasted person,” fill his Nicoma Park living room. These “get
well” tokens rest alongside stuffed puppies and rabbits and two
teddy bears signed by his No. 1 team, the Dallas Cowboys.

A recently developed snapshot shows Kubasta, in his 10th day at
Presbyterian Hospital, trying on Pro Bowl wide receiver Michael
Irvin’s Super Bowl ring.

“That was the first time I had really seen Fred smile” since the
bombing, said his wife, Joan, who believes a guardian angel must
have had a hand in her husband’s “miraculous survival. “

At least 490 people were rushed to Oklahoma City area hospitals
in the hectic hours after the April 19 bombing at the Alfred P.
Murrah Federal Building, a survey by The Oklahoman has found. Not
all survived.

That number of injured, higher than previous estimates, does not
include the numerous people treated at the scene, or the unknown
number who, like Lorri McNiven of Edmond, made it home in a daze,
then realized they needed to see their private physician.

Most of those fortunate enough to survive have begun the
difficult task of rebuilding their lives.

Only nine bomb victims remain hospitalized.

But, as Kubasta understands all too well, rebuilding won’t be
easy.

On this particular day, the 63-year-old seems content with his
circumstances, but his thoughts have drifted outdoors, where his
garden and his favorite birds await. However, his body, not to
mention his wife, won’t let him go – at least not for long and
certainly not without his cane.

A splint is wrapped around his right hand and forearm, holding
together the thumb that barely managed to stay attached and the
forefinger that he can hardly move. A scar on the left side of his
neck reveals where his carotid – the main artery that pumps blood
to the head – was ripped open. He still has glass embedded in parts
of his body.

Numbness persists on the left side of his head, and he catches
himself pinching his ear.

“I got to reach up and make sure it’s still there,” he explains.

Melissa McCulley never knew what hit her.

“It sounds really corny, but it kind of felt like I was getting
pulled into the ground,” said McCulley, 20.

She was working her part-time job as a clerk with the General
Services Administration on the federal building’s first floor.

“I was buried under a bunch of stuff. I tried to get myself out
at first, but nothing budged,” she said.

It seemed like forever, but rescuers soon heard her screams.

They cleared a path to pull her out of the rubble.

She suffered small cuts and a dislocated hip but said she is
fortunate. The rescuers carried her outside to the street, where
other people placed her on a stretcher. Her injuries were not
life-threatening, so she waited until about 11:30 a.m. for an
ambulance to take her to Southwest Medical Center.

The 1992 Putnam City High School graduate went home the next day.

But the pain – physical and otherwise – has not gone away.

“It’s still painful, but it gets better every day,” she said of
her injuries. “I have a nice, ugly scar on my leg, but I’m lucky to
have a leg.

“I feel lucky, but I feel guilty at the same time because there
were people that didn’t survive. I feel bad when I talk about being
lucky. ” McCulley, a University of Central Oklahoma human resources
major, headed back to work earlier this month, albeit in different
surroundings.

“Everything’s hectic because we lost everything and we lost
people in the office. … It’s going to take a while before we get
back to normal. ” April 19 never wanders far from her mind.

“I’m paranoid all the time. I think, What if I would have been
here? What if that? ‘ You can’t get it out of your mind, no matter
how hard you try. “

The list of victims on the day after the bombing gave Susan
Urbach’s condition as “good. ” It identified her injuries as
“multiple lacerations. “
That’s one way to describe someone with 200 stitches.

A terrorist attack on Oklahoma City was the last thing anyone
expected on that picture-perfect Wednesday morning.

But Urbach said she was emotionally prepared, at least to a
degree.

“Last year, I had dealt with a lot of death issues: serious
illness and death with family and friends and many deaths that were
unfair,’ ” she said. “I’ve looked at my own mortality, and in fact
about four to five months ago I had made out my own will, planned
out my own funeral.

“I don’t want to die, but there are things that I had done that,
had that happened, would have made it a little easier” for others.

Looking back, Urbach points out that the bombing dealt everyone
“a different hand. “
As the regional director for the Small Business Development
Center of the University of Central Oklahoma, her hand was dealt as
she stood in the doorway of her third-floor office at the Journal
Record Building. That building is across the street from the
federal building.

Fortunately, she was not facing the window. Unfortunately, she
was the recipient of a back full of glass, falling plaster from the
ceiling and part of a concrete wall.

She spent two days in Presbyterian Hospital.

Besides physical healing, Urbach said, she deals with
“theological issues. “
“I have a really hard time when someone says, God decided to
spare you,’ ” she said. “Because if that’s true, then the opposite
is true – God decided not to spare others – and that’s not the God
I serve. “

Lorri McNiven blacked out almost immediately.

When she regained consciousness a half-hour or so later, water
was pouring on her. The mother of two, a claims representative for
the Social Security Administration, thinks the water may have been
what woke her up.

Her contact lenses blown out, she could see only pitch black.

Sirens wailed. Smoke floated through her nostrils.

At first, she thought it was only her, that maybe she had suffered
an aneurysm or a heart attack. Then she discovered herself moving
through the debris, broken metal and cement rubbing against her.

Relief came when she spotted flashlights from the perimeter.

When she waved her arms, rescuers found her.

She remembers looking at her watch. It was 9:50 a.m.
“I had cuts on my face and was soaking wet and shaking. But I
wasn’t severely hurt. “
Emergency personnel led her to the triage center. She stayed
there a while before a volunteer took her home.

Once home, she showered and fielded a telephone call from her
relieved husband, Doug. Only later in the day did she visit her
family physician, Dr. Michael Herndon.

Herndon stitched up her face. It was up to her to let heal the
bruises that covered her body.

“I had fiberglass and insulation all in my clothing and in my
hair,” she said. “It took a couple of days of showering to get it
all out. “
For McNiven, the physical recovery may be over.

But she struggles emotionally.

Regular chores like vacuuming take twice as long.

“We need to get back to work before we can really start to
heal,” she said. “Because when we get back to work, there’s going
to be so many people not there, it’s going to affect us even more
than the funerals we’ve been attending the last two weeks. “
Her office lost 16 of about 50 employees in the building that
day.

“The magnitude of this is still going to hit us further on down the road. … It’s going to really hurt when we start doing our
jobs and look around at all the people we have lost. “

For Kubasta, a pasteup artist for the Journal Record newspaper,
the ear-piercing boom came during the layout process for the next
day’s legal section.

Moments earlier, he’d sipped a cup of coffee and peeked outside.

He turned back around to concentrate on his work, his back toward
the window, just before the explosion.

The force from just across the street blew him at least 15 feet.

He was briefly unconscious.

“When I woke up, all I could see was dark,” he recalled. “It was
real foggy, and I was more or less trying to yell. “
Blood poured from his neck. Alternately, he crawled and walked,
desperately searching for a way out. He didn’t know what had
happened. It would be many more hours before he would learn the
horrible truth.

Kubasta collapsed when a co-worker, Journal Record proofreader
Steve Wallace, grabbed him and said, “Fred, we got you. “
He would spend 11 days in Presbyterian Hospital. The first few
days, he was in intensive care and in serious condition. He left
the hospital April 29, the day after the Dallas Cowboys’ visit.

Now home, Kubasta battles to recover – mentally and physically.

The incoming letters, cards and notes help pass the time.

“It keeps your mind occupied,” he said. “Because when you’re not
occupied, you start thinking about everything – everything that’s
bad. “
Thunderstorms, which have occurred frequently since April 19,
strike fear.

“I hear boom’ and just jump,” he admits.

His wife provides comfort, tracking the lightning and giving
advance warning: “Now, there’s going to be another boom. “
He longs to return to work, but worries that maybe he won’t have
a job when he is ready. The Journal Record was sold last week.

He dreams about the day when he can venture out his front door
without his cane or the wheelchair required for longer errands.

Before that day, though, lies a long, tough road.

Just check Kubasta’s schedule of doctor and therapy
appointments. It’s probably similar to the schedules of many
victims.

“Almost every day of the week, we’re going to be going
somewhere,” Joan Kubasta said.

“It’s a long way to go, but he’s going to get there. “

Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)
May 15, 1995, Monday CITY EDITION
Compassion, Closure Draw Record Crowd

BYLINE: Bobby Ross Jr., Staff Writer

SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 1

LENGTH: 622 words

On a sunny Mother’s Day perfect for an outing, Laurie Conaway of
Norman and her mom, Lynnette Wooten, knew where they wanted to be.

With rescue efforts over and the Alfred P. Murrah Federal
Building’s remains soon to be demolished, they saw Sunday as their
last best chance to view a somber piece of history – in person.

“We wanted to see it and take some photographs,” Conaway said.

“It really makes it more personal. “
Thousands of people had the same idea.

People wearing church clothes and Mother’s Day corsages mixed
with those clad in shorts, T-shirts and sunglasses.

All stood in silence as they leaned their heads back, blocked
the sun with their hands and peered high at the nine-story building
where so many died.

An apparent record crowd surrounded the wreckage of the
bombed-out federal building on Sunday, getting what Reba Dooley of
Idabel described as the “full scope you cannot see on television. “
“Basically, everybody’s saying it’s the largest crowd they’ve
had,” said Sgt. Bill Ward of the Oklahoma City Police Department.

Ward said a picture-perfect holiday, the impending demolition of
the federal building and a special memorial service for survivors,
friends and family members combined to draw visitors “well into the
thousands” to the building destroyed by a truck bomb on April 19.

The memorial service was held inside a chain-link fence at NW 5
and Robinson.

The off-limits area around the building has been reduced so
sightseers can get as close to the building as across the street.

However, the boundaries are expected to expand outward again before
the demolition nears.

Richard Dean, an employee of the Social Security Administration
who had worked in the building, said the memorial service was
designed “to bring everybody together – immediate families and
those who survived. “
A program for the service carried a photograph of the bombed
building and this message: “We Will Never Forget. “
“I’ve worked there (Social Security) for 20 years, so it was a
big piece of my life,” Dean said of the building and the people.

The service “was a last chance to say goodbye and to lay a wreath. “
Flowers, heart-shaped wreaths and inspirational poems covered
the fences surrounding the perimeter, where mothers, fathers and
their children came to pay a final tribute.

Hundreds came armed with cameras and video recorders.

“This is something our kids will read about in their textbooks,”
said Eric Gudgel, who traveled from Stillwater. “I just wanted to
see it before they demolished it.

“I feel kind of bad even bringing my camera,” he said. “It’s
kind of like an amusement park. But I’m glad people are out here
showing their support. “
Jorita Beard of Oklahoma City lost a friend and a friend’s uncle
in the explosion. She paid her second visit to the site Sunday,
bringing along her 9-month-old daughter and other family members.

“Just to see it,” Beard said of why she came. “It’s kind of a
visit, I guess, for closure. “
A friend of Doug and Lea Ann Minton also died in the bombing.

“We just wanted to get a picture as a memorial kind of thing,”
Doug Minton said.

Wil Wooten, who came with his wife and her daughter, said it was
important for people to see the destruction firsthand.

“I equate it on a small scale with something like the Holocaust
in World War II,” he said. “I think it’s important for things like
this to be remembered for generations to come. “
Many said they felt almost an obligation to come.

“I didn’t come at first out of a fear of interfering,” said
Leigh Ann Ferrill of Oklahoma City. “It almost makes me sick to
look at it. “

“Not a lot of smiling faces, are they? ” her brother-in-law said.

Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)
April 28, 1995, Friday CITY EDITION
Child’s Ready Smile, Affection Remembered

BYLINE: Bobby Ross Jr., Staff Writer

SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 20

LENGTH: 899 words

Fifteen-month-old Danielle Nicole Bell was asleep when she and her
mother arrived at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building about 8:30
a.m. that tragic day.

When Deniece Bell, 28, lifted her daughter out of her car seat,
Danielle opened her eyes and leaned her head against her mother’s
chest.

As the mom explained Thursday, the blue-eyed, light-brown-haired
beauty liked to show affection that way.

Once inside the America’s Kids Day Care, Deniece Bell said she
kissed her baby on the forehead, handed her a cup of milk and
hurried to work at the post office two buildings away.

“She didn’t like to be away from me,” Bell, a 1985 Douglass High
School graduate, said of her daughter, who clutches a stuffed teddy
bear in a treasured snapshot.

But Danielle didn’t mind spending Mondays, Wednesdays and
Fridays at the federal day care.

Before new management had taken over three weeks earlier, “I
used to have to chase her to get her to come home with me,” Bell
recalled, laughing. “But she was just getting used to the new one. “
Bell remembered that on the first day Danielle encountered the
new faces in charge, she was reluctant to let her mother leave.

But Colton Wade Smith, 2, who would later die along with
Danielle and his 3-year-old brother, Chase Dalton Smith, reassured
his friend. Colton softly placed his hand on Danielle’s back and
promised her, “It’s OK. “
“I’ll just never forget that,” Bell said. “I just remember
seeing all those kids every day, especially Colton and Chase. “
As a result of Colton’s comforting hand, Danielle didn’t cry
that day. She also shed no tears when her mother said goodbye that
Wednesday, April 19.

“That’s what everybody remembers that ever saw her: She was
always smiling,” Bell said.

Sherita Bell, Deniece’s mother, nicknamed her granddaughter
“Pooter. “
“She was just a very happy baby,” said the grandmother, who kept
Danielle on Tuesdays and Thursdays. “Always, all the time, full of
love. “
The Bells can’t recall exactly where the Pooter nickname came
from, but it stuck.

When her grandmother called her Pooter, Danielle knew she ruled
the world. But when her grandmother used Danielle, she knew she had
done something wrong and had better make quick amends. That usually
involved flashing her widest smile and wrapping her arms around her
grandmother’s legs.

Deniece Bell had worked at the post office for six and a half
years. It was the only time she and Danielle ever really parted.

They slept together. They took baths together.

Bell chose the America’s Kids Day Care partly for its convenient
location. But there was another reason.

“You thought that was the safest place for a kid to be was in a
federal day care,” she said, the irony of her statement not lost.

At 9:02 a.m. that day, Bell was in her boss’s third-floor office
when she heard a thunderous boom and the building shook back and
forth. She held on to her boss’s desk to keep from falling.

She then ran downstairs and outside, toward the federal building
to check on her daughter. Hysterical and screaming, she watched the
“bloody, bloody” people coming out of the Murrah Building’s south
side and wondered what had happened to Danielle.

A police officer threatened to arrest her if she did not stay on
the right side of the curb, but she didn’t care. They would have to
restrain her to keep her from finding her baby.

Finally, officials told her that the children would be taken to
St. Anthony Hospital.

Then it was Children’s Hospital.

And for four days, Deniece Bell and her family would make
regular checks of all the hospitals, holding out hope that each
“Jane Doe” would be Danielle. In the midst of tragedy, they even
endured prank calls from people falsely claiming to have seen the
child.

On Saturday, all hope faded.

The medical examiner’s office confirmed Danielle had perished in
the bombing. Despite the numerous hours that had passed, the news
was shocking. “I thought she was alive and still in there,” Deniece
Bell said.

A police officer would later tell the Bells he pulled Danielle’s
body out within 10 minutes of the explosion. But a photograph,
which the officer saw on television, was not enough for positive
identification.

“I would have loved to have known that first day,” the mother
said.

On the day after her daughter’s funeral, Deniece Bell remained
angry Thursday. Angry at the authorities who waited so long to
inform her. Angry at the national media she claims have invaded her
privacy. Angry at the federal officials she believes have hidden
pertinent information. And angry that a tragedy she thinks could
have been avoided wasn’t.

“There was no security,” she said. “There’s no security in my
building. There’s no security in that building. The federal
courthouse has all the security because of the judges.

“There wasn’t even a guard. I just assumed because it was a
federal building it was safe. ” Deniece Bell said she “feels bad for the adults. “

“But,” she added quickly, “those kids never had a chance. And I
knew a lot of those kids. “

A teary-eyed Sherita Bell propped up her chin with her
knuckles and, sniffing, delivered this message:

“Everybody out there that has a child, be sure to love them and
hug them and tell them that you love them because they can be taken
away – in a blink of an eye. “

 Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)
April 26, 1995, Wednesday CITY EDITION”It Just Makes You Scared”

BYLINE: Bobby Ross Jr., Bryan Painter, Staff Writers

SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 1

LENGTH: 1295 words

A week ago, thunder meant thunder.Today, for Nick Allen and other Oklahoma children, thunder
sounds like a bomb.

“He could do it again,” Nick, an 11-year-old Windsor Hills
Elementary student, said Tuesday.

“It just makes you scared because every time you hear a loud
boom, you think it’s a bomb. “

Across town at the private Solomon Schechter Academy, Erielle
Reshef, 11, says she can’t sleep and has spent the last two nights
in her parents’ room.

Uncertainty and fear are in the air in many Oklahoma City area
schools hit hard – too hard – by a disaster that robbed some
children of mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters.”I’m scared someone is going to run down the street and, boom,
someone’s house is going to blow,” Erielle said.

Ilene Solomon, 11, added: “I had to go sleep in my sister’s room
because she’s scared there might be another bomb. “
Among the worst-hit schools is Sequoyah Middle School in Edmond.

Six Sequoyah students – three of them siblings – may have lost a
parent. At the same time, seventh-grade math teacher Frances
Leonard deals with the death of her brother, Secret Service Agent
Don Leonard.

“It’s made a major negative impact,” Sequoyah Principal Jeff
Edwards said. “A large number of students are affected by it.

“Middle school students have a tough enough time dealing with
their emotions without complications they don’t understand. “
With the suspect identified by the FBI as “John Doe 2″ still on
the loose, students say they are worried the next bomb could blow
up their school or kill one of their family members.

Nick’s classmate, Jonathan Hill, lost his mother, Army recruiter
Lola Renee Bolden, in the April 19 explosion. Jonathan’s older
brother is Mayfield Middle School seventh-grader Ricky Hill. The
brothers are moving to Alabama to live with family members.

But Michelle Edwards’ fifth-grade class has lost more than a
classmate.

“It makes me think about how precious my life is; and I could
have left, and I could have never saw my mom or dad again,” said
Leigha Blackwell, 11.

Another of Edwards’ students, Carly Cory, said, “I knew my dad
worked downtown. I went home and told my mom that I thought my dad
was dead. But she said he was OK. “
When he heard thunder over the weekend, Joel Woodward, 11, said
he thought, “Oh my gosh, there’s another one. ” At the Solomon Schecter
Academy, teacher Mary Frances Pedro said some students are scared and
some are confused.

“You have to deal with it a little at a time,” Pedro said. “You
ask them what they are thinking and what they are feeling. “
Children want to know that their world is safe, said Edmond
psychologist Paul Tobin.

“Young people are very concrete in their thinking,” he said.

“They think it’s either a good world and there are good people, or
it’s an evil world with evil people. … And this basically
violated their trust in the adult world. “
Most tragedies happen too far away to seem real to people the
age of Delante Johnson, or even those much older.

But the 14-year-old and other Mayfield Middle School students
have had no trouble grasping the severity of Oklahoma City’s plight.

“People, they didn’t joke around about it,” Delante said Tuesday
of his classmates. “They got serious. “
For the children, the damage extends far beyond the death toll.

Erielle recalls that the sky was sunny when she looked outside
last Wednesday morning.

“It was all peaceful before and then, boom. Now, nobody feels
safe. “

Staff writer John Perry contributed to this report.

Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)
April 22, 1995, Saturday CITY EDITION
Somber Vigil Taking Toll On Families

BYLINE: Bobby Ross Jr., Staff Writer

SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 1

LENGTH: 535 words

For a third straight day Friday, family members of Rick L. Tomlin
and scores of other missing bomb victims maintained an excruciatingly
familiar routine:
Wait and hope.

“It’s getting a little tense out here,” said Tomlin’s
24-year-old son Richard.

The Piedmont man’s family once again convened at a downtown
Oklahoma City church with many other families, anxiously awaiting
any word – each passing hour taking its toll.

“We’re three days into it and still waiting,” said the son, from
Kansas City, Kan.

Yet the Tomlins, like countless others victimized by the nation’s
worst terrorist attack, refused to give up hope.

As the likelihood of finding survivors seemed to dim, a light
nevertheless continued to shine in the minds of people like Richard
Tomlin. And Caye Allen. And Marian Spears. And Keith Coverdale.

“We’re just waiting for anything, just like everybody else down
here,” Richard Tomlin said.

The long wait began when Rick Tomlin, 46, a special agent for
the U.S. Department of Transportation, failed to emerge from the
bombed-out rubble.

As was the case with the Tomlins, Caye Allen still held tight
Friday to a glimmer of hope.

Like most others, her hope was simple: that husband, Ted, the
48-year-old community development director for the Housing and
Urban Development department, somehow may be found alive.

“There is a little bit of Pollyanna in me that thinks he might
still be in there,” Caye Allen said.

Her hope was shared by Marian Spears. Spears’ sister Teresa
Alexander, a mother of three, left her northwest Oklahoma City home
Wednesday to run an errand at the Social Security Administration on
the federal building’s first floor. She did not return.

Nevertheless, Spears said Friday, “We still have a positive
attitude. We think she’s out there. The hardest part is, we have no
information. “
Despite the grim picture painted by many who have scoured the
disaster’s remains, the father of two missing boys voiced hope
Friday that “pockets of survivors” might still exist.

“I don’t want them to be forgotten whatever condition they’re
found in,” trucker Keith Coverdale said of his sons Aaron, 5, and
Elisha, 2.
Both children were inside the second-floor federal day care
demolished by the explosion.

For other relatives of missing victims, there was hope of a
different kind.

Bob Griffin, an Independence, Mo., minister, seemed resigned to
the inevitable loss of his mother.

But he hoped, at least, that “they’ll find her body. “
And for anyone questioning whether all of Oklahoma City’s hope
disappeared in flames on an April morning, one metro school
district did its part Friday to show that hope is alive.

Millwood students staked signs for three blocks along Martin
Luther King Avenue, repeatedly promoting a single thought in bold,
black letters: “HOPE”
The message appeared 250 times.

“The kids wanted to do something to encourage family members and
people who are working at the bomb site,” said Millwood teacher Jim
Bryant. “I was really surprised they came up with this idea on
their own. “

Staff writers Brian Brus, Carla Hinton, Robert Medley and Charles
T. Jones contributed to this report.

 

Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)
April 20, 1995, Thursday CITY EDITION
Witnesses Describe Reactions When Blast Occurred

BYLINE: Bobby Ross Jr., John Perry, Staff Writers

SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 11

LENGTH: 649 words

Within minutes of the explosion which rocked downtown Oklahoma
City on Wednesday, eyewitnesses and survivors described their
reactions.

At Benchmark Motors Inc., 1225 N Broadway, salesman Ron White
said he had just arrived at the Fashion Cleaners Laundry, 106 NW 6,
when he heard the boom, saw the smoke “and watched the top of the
(federal) building just disappear. It was big chunks of debris
twirling and shooting up in the air. It still doesn’t even seem
real. “

The flying debris dented the hood of his black Mercedes, but he
said “my problems are just so minor compared to anything else. “
Marcial Escobedo, 31, owner of the newly opened Abuelita Rosa
Mexican cafe at 1220 N Hudson, was standing behind the small
eatery’s burglar bars, which stayed intact even as green glass
broke apart in every direction.

He said he was on his way to work when smoke filled the sky.

“I thought that was it,” he said of the explosion. “I thought it
was the end of the world. “
David Severe, director of local church ministries for the
Oklahoma Conference of the United Methodist Church, said First
Methodist Church, 131 NW 4, was severely damaged.

“More than likely it will have to be razed. All of those
beautiful stained glass windows are shattered to pieces,” Severe
said. “The balcony is just hanging in all kinds of bad places and
shapes. The skylight and windows are out. The roof looks like it’s
been lifted up. “
Severe said First Methodist would worship at Oklahoma City
University on Sunday.

Inside the First Baptist Church sanctuary at 1201 N Robinson,
Bart Nixon shook his head at the sky visible through six
8-by-15-foot stained glass windows that were blown apart. A cool
breeze pushed rubbish across pew cushions, while sirens wailed
outside.

“It’s so unbelievable,” said Nixon, an architect and church
member who recently helped with remodeling the red brick church,
constructed in 1910. “We thought the building was going to fall
down, it shook so bad. “
At the Law Center, 915 N Robinson, Sherri Herrell had been
walking toward the back door when the shock wave hit.

“It shook the building. Glass was flying,” she said.

At Merkel X-Ray Co., 225 NW 9, customer service representative
Sam Davenport said office workers were blown from their chairs by
the blast.

“Come here and look at this,” he said, while walking toward an
office with a west-facing window which had been shattered.

“Our sales manager had just walked out of this office,” he said.

“It would have killed him if he’d been here. “
At the nearby Lawyers Title of Oklahoma City building, 1141 N
Robinson, business administrator Jean Ann Riggs said the office’s
weekly prayers had paid off.

“It’s just a miracle that no one in the building was hurt,”
Riggs said. “We pray every Monday morning for our business, for our
employees … “
At The Good Printing Co., 1201 N Harvey, cameraman Andy Cullison
said he felt the impact first, then heard the explosion. As
Cullison watched events from the corner, a firefighter approached
at 11:10 a.m. and warned him and others to evacuate the area.

“They believe there’s a second device and it’s more powerful
than the first,” the firefighter said.

Many of the 70 residents of the Wesley Village Retirement
Community, 300 NW 12, were enjoying a coffee break when the
explosion occurred.

John Pendleton, 57, was still asleep. He woke up in a hurry.

“I didn’t know what it was that woke me up,” he said. “It scared
the hell out of me. “
Steve Bittinger, 46, said he was on his hands and knees cleaning
a blackboard near the First Lutheran Church’s double doors when the
force burst open the doors. The church is at 1300 N Robinson.

“I rolled out of the way,” Bittinger said. “If I hadn’t moved, I
would have been maimed.

“My reflexes are still pretty good,” he added with a nervous
laugh.

 

Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)
April 20, 1996, Saturday CITY EDITION
Tears, Prayers, Bells, Headlights Offer Tributes

BYLINE: Bobby Ross Jr., Staff Writer

SECTION: NEWS; Pg. 1

LENGTH: 1033 words

With sunglasses concealing her teary eyes, Marsha Ferguson managed
a smile Friday as her 23-month-old daughter, Taylor, played with a
necklace and talked with strangers.

Oblivious to her mother’s pain on the first anniversary of the
Oklahoma City bombing, the blond toddler jumped playfully onto an
older gentleman’s lap and made his tears disappear.

For thousands of Oklahomans, Friday was a day to remember the
senseless deaths of 168 people.

For Ferguson, it was that and much more.

“Today’s a day I lost a best friend, and I lost my security,”
said the Mustang woman, whose friend, Diana Day, was killed in the
April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

But she, like many, hoped to begin the healing process Friday.

“It’s really bringing a lot of peace,” she said of the numerous
public memorial services conducted throughout Oklahoma City and
surrounding cities.

And her daughter helped her forget the nightmares of the night
before.

“That’s the main reason in having my daughter with me,” she said,
“to remind me there’s laughter and life still going on.”

Across the metro area, thousands of Oklahomans and out-of-staters
found ways to pay tribute.

Motorists’ headlights shown through the day – and activity
almost everywhere stopped at 9:02 a.m.

At Oklahoma Christian University of Science and Arts, the Bible
Building chimes rang 168 times in memory of the victims. At the
First Baptist Church just blocks from the bomb site, dozens bowed
for 168 seconds of silent prayer. At the 89er Days Rodeo at the
Lazy E Arena, contestants removed their cowboy hats, stood silently
and watched as the scoreboard clock counted down from 2 minutes and
48 seconds.

“I remember the times that I would listen to the news reports
and look at the pictures of those who had died and would sit and
weep over the pain and the agony that had been caused by hate,”
counselor Tom Madden told the crowd at the First Baptist prayer
breakfast.

“But,” he added, “you and I have a Lord that is stronger than
all of the hate in the world and all of the tragedy and all of the
crisis.”

Jay Allen, First Baptist’s minister of education, said the
church completed $ 500,000 in repairs just two weeks ago.

But Allen stressed the new stained-glass windows, pew cushions
and carpeting were insignificant compared to the continued
suffering of victims’ families.

“You know, if you give your life for your country or there seems
to be a purpose in it, I think we have a way with dealing with that
a little better than we do (when it happens) just for no reason,”
Allen said.

At University Hospital, a small memorial service rekindled
memories of the hectic scene a year ago.

“It’s been a sad day – different today than a year ago,” said
Dwight Reynolds, associate chief of staff.

“A year ago, we were working on adrenaline. As the day wore on,
everyone was incredibly saddened that we didn’t have more work to
do – more survivors to help,” said Reynolds, a cardiologist.

In Bethany, LaDonna Moore brought her Kiddie Kollege class to
see a “Parade of Heroes” sponsored by Heroes of the Heart.

“I saw you on TV,” one child yelled as Oklahoma Search and
Rescue Team members and their dogs passed.

At a Del City Church of Christ memorial service, multicolored
ribbons and a poem explaining the meaning of the yellow, blue,
white, purple, green and red ribbons were distributed.

“One of the great concerns people have is whether justice will
be served. We should trust God to vindicate all the wrongs,” said
minister Jeff Gardner, quoting a passage from Amos 5:24 – “Let
justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an
ever-flowing stream.”

Gardner spoke about a funeral for a teen-age friend he attended
on Wednesday, saying that it was not time for his friend to die.

“A year ago it was not those people’s time to die. God had
nothing to do with it. It was perpetrated by Satan and his
servants,” Gardner said. “God can give us the strength to go on.”

Four ceiling fans spun slowly as a noon gathering of about 30
people turned attention to the southeast corner of the Episcopal
Church of the Redeemer, 2100 Martin Luther King Ave.

The Rev. Melvin E. Truiett Sr. of the Episcopal Church of the
Redeemer stepped to the pulpit and spoke of the importance of love.

As representatives from various faiths – including Christian,
Muslim and Baha’i – followed Truiett, several words were used to
describe what happened a year ago. Among those were “heinous,”
“violated” and “attacked.”

“I thought what really touched my heart was that there were
various faiths, but the common denominator was love,” Truiett said.
“I’m hoping that this community can maintain the enthusiasm and
sensitivity to bring it all together.

“And the one that is doing that is God.”

At the U.S. Employees OC Federal Credit Union, 4301 S Interstate
44, an afternoon ceremony recognized 14 credit union members who
died in the blast.

Fourteen freshly planted redbud trees formed a semicircle, while
14 red carnations were placed in a vase near a plaque on a piece of
the Murrah Building.

“I hope today does start to bring healing for the families,”
said Tommie Campbell, the U.S. Employees credit union’s chief
executive.

At the Social Security Administration offices in Oklahoma City’s
Shepherd Mall, employees from Tulsa and other areas came to fill in
for bomb survivors. All those workers had the day off, said
supervisor Tony Romero.

Bill Sicard, a Cottage Grove, Minn., firefighter, came to
Oklahoma last year to help with the recovery work. He later
corresponded with first-grade students in Amy Kloth’s class at
Mustang Valley Elementary.

On Friday, he returned to see the bomb site and visit the school.

Going back to the site was “really tough,” he told the students
in an assembly.

“I hung on to the fence and to be truthful with you, I cried.”

He said the students’ letters were on his wall at his home – and
on the inside of his locker door at the fire station.

Staff writers Bryan Painter, Ellie Sutter, Murray Evans, Amy
David, Lisa Beckloff and Carla Hinton contributed to this report.