Oklahoma bombing remembered 20 years later

Twenty years ago, Bill and Leigh Clark spent 10 days working at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing. photos by provided by Leigh Clark

Twenty years ago, Bill and Leigh Clark spent 10 days working at the site of the Oklahoma City bombing. photos by provided by Leigh Clark

“At 9:02 a.m. local time on April 19, 1995, a Ryder rental truck; containing approximately 7,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, nitromethane, and diesel fuel; was detonated in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, destroying a third of the building and causing severe damage to several other buildings located nearby. As a result of the massive explosion, 168 people were killed, including 19 children, and over 800 others were injured. It was the deadliest terrorist attack, with the most property damage, on American soil before the September 11 attacks. It remains the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in American history.” (en.wikipedia.org)

What a tragic day. I was home, 90 miles away from the bombing site, while my (now) husband, Bill Clark, was living in Oklahoma City. I was on the Disaster Relief for the American Red Cross while he was a Radio Communication Specialist.  We both were called in to assist.

Upon clearance and arrival, one could not fathom in real time, what had just occurred – complete devastation. You could not walk near any areas for many blocks without seeing damages, people badly hurt, a shoe here and there and personal belongings and bodies, or limbs thereof.

Bill set up the communications command post where he reported to Governor Mary Fallon. His duties were to order supplies, and assist firefighters and federal employees. He also had Geraldo Rivera working with him, bringing live feed to the curious and concerned nationwide.

Bill delivered federal reports by radio communication and to the news medias. He assisted with supplies such as food, blankets and climbing ropes for the rescue personnel. He also implemented shoes for the rescue dogs, to protect their feet from the rubble.

I assisted first in the food supplies that were pouring in from all vendors. This happened in a matter of minutes. The big-name food vendors came in with truckloads of food, drinks, mints, gum, etc. for all the rescue workers and personnel.

Restaurants started sending in hot boxed foods of steaks, shrimp, chicken, fries and veggies, and at least 200 to 600 would come in at a time. These we fed to the rescue personnel. Even the public came to our aid before we received help from the restaurant and food vendors by making and bringing in homemade sandwiches, chips and baked goods.

After the food vendors were set up, I moved to the computer station. This is where the names of the families were placed into the computer of where they were being gathered, awaiting the news of their loved ones.

Once we were given the names of the unfortunate and entered the identified into the computers, chaplains were in place and communications were given to them in the “gathering areas” to deliver the sad news or the good news. Loved ones were found and sent to the hospitals where they could find their family member. Our job was to try and reunite families.

The outpouring of support from the community was overwhelming – something we have never seen before nor wish to see again. Donations were coming in from every walk of life. Tankers, semis, earth movers, petroleum trucks, lighting, communication systems, clothing, gloves, eyewear, etc., just poured into the community without anyone having to ask.

Volunteers jumped in to assist, whether it be for rescue efforts or providing a service that was needed. It was just amazing to see how Oklahomans came together in this great time of catastrophe, along with many others from far away.

Bill and I worked the bombing for 10 days with virtually no sleep, as did many others. We cannot change the unfortunate situation, but we all have been affected by this, especially those who had a bird’s eye view of this tragedy. We, too, lost some friends who were merely conducting business on that horrifying day.

Over the years, we have managed to go back to the bombing site to pay our respects. The bombing memorial is something to see. Should anyone be traveling through Oklahoma, please stop and see the memorial and museum. There is a chair for every victim, including one homeless man who lost his life.


About Author

Donna Ritchie