Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)
September 12, 2001, Wednesday CITY EDITION
City’s Muslims fear backlash of blame
BYLINE: Bobby Ross Jr., Randy Ellis, Staff Writers
LENGTH: 878 words
A distraught Muslim woman called the Islamic Society of Greater
Oklahoma City on Tuesday morning as terrorist attacks rocked the
“She’s completely terrified,” said Suhaib Webb, imam of the
society’s mosque. “She’s a single woman. She’s like, ‘What if
someone tries to kill me?’
“She’s worried that society is going to blame her for this
American Muslim groups rushed Tuesday to condemn the attacks on
the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. They cautioned other
Americans not to blame followers of Islam until investigators
determine who was responsible.
As Oklahoma’s roughly 20,000 Muslims dealt with the shock
experienced by most Americans, they grappled with another emotion
as well: fear. Fear that people would blame them for the tragedies.
Fear that 10 years of work to change Oklahomans’ perspectives of
their religion had been shattered.
Muslims in Oklahoma City reported seeing motorists making
obscene gestures outside the Islamic Society of Greater Oklahoma
City, Webb said. One member received a letter filled with
obscenities and threats of retaliation, Webb said.
“Nobody knows who did it. Let’s remember the Oklahoma City
bombing, and when we rushed to judgment and accused Middle Eastern
people,” Webb said.
“As a Muslim right now, we are very concerned. When you see the
things you see on television, it is devastating. I think it should
be known that there were Muslims in those buildings. There are
thousands of Muslims in New York City.”
Police Lt. Barry Clark said he knew of no reports of harassment
or complaints filed late Tuesday.
Gary Johnson, a spokesman for the FBI, also said the agency had
not received any complaints.
“We investigate hate crimes and if someone commits an act as
described, we would potentially investigate it,” Johnson said.
“Our hearts go out to the people who were massacred in this
horrible tragedy and as Muslims, we do not condone this type of
action. As Americans, we believe that the people who are rightfully
found guilty should be punished,” Webb said.
“We did a lot of work in trying to dispel all the stereotypes.
But when idiots do things like this, it destroys 10 years of work.
It’s not condoned in our religion. Everyone knows that. This is
ridiculous. I’m almost completely speechless.”
Webb advised the woman who called not to go outside and to keep
a low profile.
One group, mindful of anti-Islamic sentiment after the terrorist
attack by domestic terrorists in Oklahoma City in 1995, cautioned
Muslims who wear traditional clothing to stay out of public areas
in the immediate future. That group, the Council on
American-Islamic Relations in Washington, also suggested that
Muslim leaders across the United States request additional police
In the first few days after the 1995 terrorist attack on the
Oklahoma City federal building, Muslims reported more than 200
incidents of harassment, threats and violence, the council said.
Some investigators at the time reported that Islamic
fundamentalists might have been responsible for the Oklahoma
attack, but Timothy McVeigh, angry at the government for its raid
on the Branch Davidian religious sect near Waco, Texas, was
convicted and executed for the Oklahoma City bombing, which
resulted in the deaths of 168 people.
American Muslim groups appealed to their members to offer help
to victims of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks,
including donations of blood and providing medical help at the
No one has yet claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Webb’s mosque was planning a special prayer service for the
victims of Tuesday’s tragedy. Islamic leaders also were considering
sending children home from the private school that meets at the
Terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center towers
were met with immediate condemnation Tuesday by the board of
directors of the American Muslim Association of Oklahoma City.
“As American Muslims, we wish to express our strongest
condemnation of the terrorist acts,” the board said.
“Our holy book, the Quran, condemns suicide in the strongest
terms as an unforgivable sin,” the board said. “There are no
exceptions and weaseling explanations that would justify suicide
under any circumstances.”
Dr. M.A. Shakir, board secretary, said he was stunned by
“I am beyond shock. I can’t function,” he said. “I went to
school in New York. That’s where I did my internal medicine and
cardiology. I walked those streets.
“I think the people who are inspiring these misguided guys that
they are going to heaven – maybe if I were an 18-year-old willing
to blow myself up, I would ask the 45-year old preacher to first do
Christian leaders urged Oklahomans not to blame fellow citizens
such as Muslims for the attacks and to focus on the nature of God.
“We must know that God is a God of love and a universal God and
a God of all people, so that we work hard to keep the terrorists
separated from others of the terrorists’ nationality or religion,”
said Don Alexander, pastor of First Christian Church of Oklahoma City.
CONTRIBUTING: The Associated Press
‘It takes you back’ National tragedy bitter reminder for Oklahomans
LENGTH: 906 words
The scene looked so familiar. Too familiar.
The smoke. The chaos. The rescue workers.
Gary Woodbridge, whose wife, Ronota, died in the 1995 bombing of
the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, had seen it all before.
“Watching some of the video of them trying to save people and
help people, a lot of it reminded me of what we saw in Oklahoma
City,” the Guthrie man said.
“The only difference… is the patches on the uniforms say New
York City instead of Oklahoma City.
“I kind of feel like it’s an attack on America instead of what
(Timothy) McVeigh did on the government… Emotionally, it’s kind
For Woodbridge and others who experienced the bombing – the
worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil until Tuesday – the latest
tragedy brought all the horrible memories flowing back.
“It’s unsettling,” Jeannine Gist said. “It takes you back.”
The Midwest City woman lost her daughter, Karen Carr, 32, in the
“This is a long way away, but it’s very tragic because there
will be so many more people killed in this,” Gist said.
“The people who are losing people in the Trade Center and the
Pentagon, those are the people that it really happened to… But
this is an attack on our country,” Gist said. “It’s hard to believe
that somebody would attack the United States like that.
“I don’t really connect it in any way with the Oklahoma City
bombing, but it’s really disturbing to see everything, all the
smoke and fire.”
For the Rev. Nick Harris, Oklahoma City’s experience made
dealing with Tuesday’s numbing news all the more difficult.
Harris is senior pastor of the First United Methodist Church, a
downtown church shattered by the bombing.
“I know in my heart what these people in New York are going
through,” Harris said. “It doesn’t do anything but break me in
pieces. I just don’t think there’s any easy way for people, at
least in downtown Oklahoma City, to handle this.”
Like others who had hoped the carnage seen in Oklahoma City
never would be duplicated, Harris struggled to grasp the enormity
of Tuesday’s attacks.
“It’s more than you can even imagine,” he said. “It makes
Oklahoma City look like just a drop in the bucket in comparison…
I mean, if somebody you loved died in Oklahoma City, it’s just as
big as New York. I’m just talking in terms of the amount of
In times such as these, Christians should forgive those who do
evil and bless those who curse them, Harris said.
Eventually, he hopes, he will be able to do that.
“It’s hard not to be angry,” he said, “and I, for one, am
feeling a great deal of anger over this.”
Woodbridge, a volunteer counselor at the Kids’ Place in Edmond,
quickly volunteered to go to New York or Washington and help
“Folks in Oklahoma have been there, done that,” he said. “I
think we could offer a lot to those folks.”
Even after hearing the devastating news Tuesday, Priscilla
Salyers went to her job at the U.S. Secret Service office in
“I was scheduled to go to a class over at 50 Penn Place, and by
the time I got there I was having such bad post-traumatic stress
syndrome I went in and told them I couldn’t go,” Salyers said.
“And I had to come to work. I mean, that was my reaction, I had
to come to work. My boss said I could go home but I said, ‘No, I’ve
got to stay here.’ Keep trying to function. But I’m having a real
The destruction at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon
brought back memories of the morning of April 19, 1995, when her
workday was shattered by an explosion. She fell from the fifth
floor and was buried under tons of debris for more than four hours.
Salyers said her co-workers were “glued to the TV” as events
unfolded Tuesday, but she couldn’t watch.
“I can’t,” she said. “I’m trying to work, but I’m just going
through motions… I don’t have a fear that something’s going to
happen to me. I mean, I’ve already been through stuff. But like,
what is going to happen to our country? What’s happening?”
Joyce Rogers, wife of former Murrah Building manager Don Rogers,
said her husband was “too shook up” Tuesday to talk to a reporter.
She said her husband’s reaction to the news from New York and
Washington was “mainly just silence because it was shock. It just
started bringing everything back to him. We had an appointment to
go have breakfast with friends and he was silent all the way, and
then he finally turned the radio off because he couldn’t listen to
Don Rogers suffered through a long bout of depression following
the Murrah bombing and took disability retirement from the federal
General Services Administration. It had taken him four years to
fight his way back to emotional normalcy.
On Tuesday, Joyce said her husband broke down and wept. “His
buddies” came to comfort him.
“It’s going to be really hard on him,” she said.
As for herself, Joyce Rogers’ voice nearly broke when she said,
“Taking it OK. It’s not surprising. I’m not surprised that this has
happened because I think terrorism is just getting stronger and
stronger, and there’s just more and more hate for America. And I’ve
just been looking for it.
“I think this is not the end of it. I’m really calm about it.
Not worried that much. Because if you’re right with God, you don’t
have to worry about it.”
Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK)
September 12, 2001, Wednesday CITY EDITION
‘God’s still in charge and will be forever’ Faithful gather for prayer, support across Oklahoma
BYLINE: Bobby Ross Jr., Religion Editor
LENGTH: 613 words
With no earthly answers to explain the unexplainable, Oklahoma’s
faithful knelt Tuesday at the throne of God.
Candles burned, sacred hymns soothed and Scriptures provided
comfort as thousands of Oklahomans looked to heaven and begged
their Lord for strength.
“Ladies and gentlemen, heaven is not meeting in emergency
session tonight,” the Rev. Alan Day, pastor of the First Baptist
Church of Edmond, said at one of the hundreds of special prayer
services conducted throughout the state.
“We might be, but the Lord is in control.”
Day prayed that his church would focus not on Tuesday’s
tragedies, but on what God wants to happen in the hearts of His
“Strength for today, bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all
mine, with 10,000 beside,” the congregation sang as a piano played.
A few miles down the street, about 300 people gathered at a
community prayer meeting at the Edmond Church of Christ.
“We have seen that Satan and his angels are alive and working,”
outreach minister David Duncan said.
“Tonight, we come here to gain strength… to remind him and
ourselves that we will not be defeated.
“Buildings may fall, our economy may be shaken and some may even
lose their lives, but we will remain faithful.”
Their faces pained with emotion, Toni Kirk, her daughter
Jennifer Kirk and granddaughter Jacquelyn Kirk joined hundreds
Tuesday night at a special Mass at the Cathedral of our Lady of
“It is only through God that anyone is ever going to find any
kind of peace,” Toni Kirk said. “Certainly, this nation needs some
kind of peace and unification.”
The Most Rev. Eusebius Beltran, the Roman Catholic archbishop of
Oklahoma City, celebrated the Mass.
“This terrible tragedy affects all of us individually and
collectively,” Beltran said. “Our country has been violated by this
attack. We are all in shock and grief.
“There is no easy way out because we cannot undo what has
happened, nor can we hide from the pain and sorrow. There is no
doubt but that we should react in a prayerful, Christian manner.”
A steady stream of people came to pray Tuesday at Crossings
Community Church in Oklahoma City.
Two big screens displayed inspirational verses and slides of
blue skies and mountaintops as music wafted softly through the
For church member Dawna O’Connell, prayer was the only answer
“I felt like I had a big hole in my heart, just from the pain of
knowing this has happened to our country,” said O’Connell, 69, who
likened her heartbreak to that of her parents during World War II.
“And only God can fill that hole. He’s still in charge and will
At Oklahoma City’s First United Methodist Church, across the
street from the bombing memorial, the sanctuary opened for prayer
at 3 p.m. and did not close until midnight.
With police officer John Kane providing security, ministers Glen
Howard and Foy Conrad watched scenes of destruction on a small
color television just inside the church door.
“God can still accomplish good in the lives of people, even in a
tragedy like this,” Howard said.
At the North American Mission Board’s invitation, Oklahoma
Baptist chaplains, including Sam Porter and Leslie Sias, were
preparing to go to New York City within 24 hours.
“In addition to counseling, they will assess the situation and
attempt to determine the best ways that Southern Baptists can
help,” said Ray Sanders, spokesman for the Baptist General
Convention of Oklahoma.
“One Oklahoman and her search-and-rescue dog are already on
their way to New York City as a part of Oklahoma Baptist response.
Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City, OK
September 12, 2001, Wednesday CITY EDITION
Professor’s daughter sees attack scene Call alarms father during class
BYLINE: Bobby Ross Jr., Religion Editor
LENGTH: 463 words
The ringing of his telephone interrupted Oklahoma Christian
University professor Arlis Wood’s introductory psychology class
The shaken, terrified voice of Wood’s daughter, Elizabeth, 18,
immediately alarmed him.
The New York City college freshman had just stepped out of a
subway station into a living hell.
“Dad, there’s a hole in… the World Trade Center,” she told him.
As he tried to calm her, she screamed, “Dad, another plane just
hit the other building and there’s this huge explosion.”
At the front of his classroom, as his students’ curiosity turned
to shock, Wood could not fathom the living nightmare – the hell on
earth – unfolding before his daughter’s eyes.
“She was describing people trying to get away and trying to jump
out and a man in a black suit who fell from who knows where,” said
Wood, Oklahoma Christian’s dean of students. “She even described
somebody taking pictures and laughing and somebody coldcocking them
and knocking them down.
“She was describing this whole chaotic event of people not
knowing what to do and falling out of the building and jumping.”
As his daughter talked about airplane parts sticking out, Wood
envisioned a small private plane – not a huge commercial airliner.
“I talked to her for a long, long time,” he said. “It was just
horrible, absolutely horrible.”
Just three weeks ago, Wood drove his daughter, a recent graduate
of Oklahoma City’s Classen School of Advanced Studies, to
Manhattan, where she began creative writing studies at Eugene Lang
If there was a bright side to the tragic news, it was that
Elizabeth – safe and sound – delivered it to her father herself.
But by Tuesday afternoon, he had not been able to reach her
again. All circuits were busy.
“I need to hear from her again,” he said. “I’m hoping she got
away from there and didn’t get close to where the building fell.”
Soon afterward, he received an e-mail from his daughter with the
subject line, “I am OK.”
The e-mail said:
“Dad, after I got off the phone, the building began to explode
and fall, and I had to run and the building fell on all the
ambulances and police cars I could see and we all ran. I am at
Jeann’e (sic) dorm. It is very safe. I was walking past my school’s
health services, and a counselor saw I was upset and brought me in,
talked to me and gave me water.
“There are thousands of people walking north on Manhattan. There
is no transportation. Everyone is being evacuated, I hope my
roommates are okay. E-mail works, but phone doesn’t.
“People are covered in dust and everyone is crying.
“It is like a Hiroshima video or something.
“This is unbelievable. I am safe. But I could not have been. I
love you. Elizabeth.”