The Musings of

Something full of magic, religion, bullsh*t.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


Has it really been 10 years? Wow. It's funny how much the world has changed in a decade. After 9/11, the Oklahoma City Bombing has lost a little bit of its impact. It's difficult to look back over the debris of the Twin Towers and remember the fear and confusion of April 19, 1995.

My memory is probably a little stronger than most. I was in OKC on that day. Those who follow my obscure scribblings know that before I embarked upon a lucrative career in interpreting the law, I helped pass the laws. My job took me all over the country, where I usually spent several months working in one place before moving on to one a thousand miles away. In January 1995, I was moved from Montana to Oklahoma to assist our local affiliate with a legislative program. April 19 was my last day in town. I was scheduled for my first vacation in two years -- a trip to North Carolina to visit friends -- before heading out to God-knows-where for my next mission.

Not being much of a planner, I had waited to pack up my truck the morning I was scheduled to leave. Just after 9 a.m., I was standing in the middle of my too-small temporary apartment, approximately 5 miles west of downtown, trying to figure out how I was going to fit x amount of items in the x-1 amount of space in my truck, when there was this compression. I don't know what else to call it. My door rattled, my windows bowed, and I could feel the air pressure change and hear to muffled explosion. I actually went out into the street next to my apartment to see what happened. All I saw was some roofers working on the office in the complex on a beautiful spring day.

I went back in and continued packing for about 5 minutes when a voice cut into the radio station I had playing in the background. I can still remember what it said: "A building downtown has blown up. We don't know which building or how, but we are receiving reports that a tremendous explosion has happened downtown and has damaged at least one building." Downtown? But I felt the damn thing!

My first thought was that someone had blown up the Capitol building where I spent much of my time.

Not having a TV, I hurriedly filled my truck and drove over to the office I was working out of. When I got there, I found the 5th-floor secretary/gatekeeper watching a TV on her desk. The first images of the Murrah building began coming in, and we were just dumbfounded. I went to the office, but the guy I worked with wasn't in. I called him, and he told me that he was staying home.

The calls started filtering in -- friends and family members from across the country were concerned and just as confused as we were. "No, we know any more than you. No, I don't think anyone I know works there." Around noon I decided I needed something to eat. There was a mall about a mile down the road, and the food court seemed like a good idea. Across the street from the mall was a 7 or 8 story building that had shopping on the bottom floors and offices above. The parking lot was completely closed down with police cars blocking every entrance. I had delivered something to an office in the building a few weeks before, and remembered from looking at the locater board that the FBI offices in the building.

A little wigged, I pulled into the mall parking lot and entered the building. The place was dead. Despite being the middle of the day, about 25% of the stores were closed. I meandered through the ghost town to the second floor eating area and was pleased to find that Chick-fil-a was open. I ordered my sandwich and sat down in the middle of the court practically alone.

This was the moment that brought it all home. I was sitting there, reading a magazine and munching on my waffle fries when a shadow fell across the page. I looked up. 30 feet above me was the ceiling with raised skylighting. Framed in one of the skylights was a man dressed in black carrying an automatic weapon. Here I was in that most American of all places, the mall, and some government agent in sunglasses and a backwards baseball bat was armed to the teeth a ready to kill anyone who tried to interfere with my lunch.

I finished eating, rode back to the office for one more call to my co-worker, then hit the road about 10 minutes ahead of an approaching thunderstorm. Due to the bombing, I had to circumnavigate the town, and I was soon caught in the torrential downpour heading eastward on I-40.

I listened to the radio for a couple of hours until I couldn't take anymore. I stopped for burgers at a Krystal in Memphis, called my mother from a payphone, and made a last-minute decision not to take the interstate, but to drive across Tennessee on a state highway. I got into Chattanooga around 3 a.m. and decided to drive straight to Charlotte instead of going south to Atlanta. For those unfamiliar with the area, this route is nothing but roads winding through the mountains, and is nothing short of beautiful. I remember the sun coming up and finally making it into Charlotte a little before noon.

I wish I had something profound to say about my experiences that day, but I don't. I pondered the situation all night and was unable to find any rational explanation. The following 10 years haven't brought any further clarity. How Americans could decide that such actions were necessary or even within the realm of possibility is beyond me. I don't have the faintest idea what they felt they were accomplishing, and I really don't want to know.

I only know that it's important not to forget.
Centinel 9:44 AM #


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