April 2015 Column Winner

Witnessing the Savagery of Evil

Jim Powell, Yukon Review

At 9 a.m. the morning of April 19, 1995, I was leaning over my light table in the pre-press department on the ground floor of the Journal Record Building at the corner of 6th
Street and Robinson in downtown Oklahoma City. I had worked in the production department of the company 15 years and that day was just like any other until 9:02, when all hell broke loose.
Something hit me on the shoulder and I looked up to see pieces of ceiling tile mixed with dust cascading down from above. My gut instinct told m e something was very wrong and I immediately bolted toward our fire escape route.
I didn't hear the earth-shattering blast from the bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building when it detonated, even though it was only 200 to 300 feet from the south side of the Journal Record.
More on that later.
As I began to run for the exit out of the building I shouted "Get out! Get out!" to any of my co-workers in the area. There were maybe only three or four in that area at the time and the only one I remember is a girl who wasn't reacting, probably frozen with fear at the sudden calamity. As I passed close to her I hollered again to "Get out!" and she did manage to get outside safely.
Our exit was up a short flight of stairs, past the break room, then down a carpeted marble hallway maybe 50 feet long and then out onto 6th Street. It took probably less than 30 seconds to get out but it seemed like forever.
It was a surreal feeling getting out of the building. I hunkered over with my hands over my head for protection from falling debris. The hallway was quickly filling with dust and debris and it was like everything was going in slow motion. I've heard people say they've felt that way when facing danger and it's the only way to describe it.
People were pouring out of the building where the cool, crisp weather that sunny April morning was in sharp contrast to what was happening on the street and sidewalks outside the building.
One thing I remember well is that you couldn't take a step in any direction or walk anywhere without stepping on broken glass. It was everywhere. Every window in the area was shattered, carpeting 6th Street with a snowstorm of glass, from little pieces to larger shards.
Many people were injured and bleeding. Some had rags or strips of clothing dabbing the blood on their faces, their arms ... wherever the glass from the bomb blast had struck them while they were inside the building.
I don't remember panic; it was mostly looks of bewilderment and shock since no one had a clue as to what happened. The Journal Record Building takes up most of the block on 6th Street from Robinson to Harvey so we couldn't see the Murrah Building on the other side.
There were huge clouds of billowing, black smoke rising and drifting to the west from somewhere behind or on the other side of our building and I thought something had exploded in our pressroom.
At one point, two friends and I went back inside to make sure everyone had gotten out of the composing room on the second floor since there were so many that worked there.
Walls had caved in, the ceiling was gone in many areas and we had to climb over huge piles of debris. We got as close as we could to the composing room and cried out, asking if anyone was still there. Not hearing a response we returned outside but learned later there was an employee, a paste-up artist, who had been critically injured by glass and was rescued a little later. He spent several days in the ICU at one of the local hospitals.
Outside again, I looked around for anyone who needed help but all of the injured were being tended to, and there were many. It may be a cliché but it looked like a war zone; people bleeding everywhere, some lying on their backs, some sitting, but they were all getting the attention they needed.
I found several co-workers and we stood together, speculating on what had happened and what we should do. At one point, I walked up to Robinson and crossed the street and first viewed the raw devastation of what had once been the Murrah Building. My mind didn't comprehend the extent of it at first. I remember thinking that several people probably died in the explosion... if only that were so.
Looking down Robinson, there was pandemonium. First responders were arriving, lights, sirens, shouting, running, bloody children being carried from the daycare in the YMCA that is diagonally across the intersection from the Murrah Building. Every Oklahoman has seen some of that footage on TV and it was horrible to see it first-hand. I thought "how can this be happening?" How does a peaceful, blue sky, bright sunny day turn into such carnage? The man who could answer that question had just a little while earlier put earplugs in his ears as he sprinted away from the Ryder truck parked against the curb in front of the Murrah Building.
I don't remember how long I stayed at the scene but eventually I retrieved my car from the parking garage across the street from our building and left to go home and watch what was happening on TV.
An hour or so later the entire area was ringed with crime tape and many who had left their cars in that garage couldn't get them out for days while federal agencies and local police investigated the bombing.
The explosion blew the roof off the Journal Record Building, several floors collapsed, and broken glass penetrated the entire structure. Fortunately, no fatalities occurred in the building, although there were several critical injuries.
The bomb damaged 347 buildings in the immediate area. Thirty buildings were heavily damaged and since then around sixteen buildings have been torn down. Twenty blocks of downtown Oklahoma City were cordoned off due to damage from the bomb.
My theory as to why I didn't hear the ear-shattering explosion when people from at least as far away as Edmond heard it is this: The Journal Record Building was built on a hill so the ground floor at the front of the building, where I worked, is slightly underground. The shock wave caused by an explosion of that magnitude travels out and up. I believe that being beneath ground level, with no doors or windows on the Murrah Building side of our department, the sound of the blast went above us and didn't penetrate downwards enough to where it was audible. That's the only thing I can figure.


On that bright spring morning in 1995, pure evil visited the people of Oklahoma City. Although he didn't have two horns, a tail and a pitchfork, Timothy McVeigh was the devil incarnate and savagely murdered 168 people, including 19 children. He was mad at the government over what he believed were heavy-handed tactics by federal authorities during an armed standoff at Ruby Ridge, Idaho in 1992 and in Waco, Texas in 1993.
McVeigh was booted out of Special Forces training while in the Army due to his failure to meet the physical fitness requirements and had a chip on his shoulder for that as well.
He was a cowardly, despicable, adolescent-minded psychopath who said the Army taught him how to switch off his emotions.
McVeigh referred to the 19 children he killed, some of them infants, as "legitimate targets." I would call them precious little angels that were a gift from God for the short time they lived here on this earth.
McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001 and the world became a better place. It's too bad he couldn't have been executed another 167 times to feel the pain and anguish he wreaked upon so many but I have no doubt he will burn in the fires of hell throughout eternity.

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