Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Heartbreak in the Heartland: 9:02AM

By Alanna Radle Rodriguez
Alfred P. Murrah Building, Oklahoma City, May 1995
Every generation has its global, national, local disaster either natural or man-made. Something that happened when everyone who experienced that disaster can tell you what they were doing, where they were when it occurred. Many events overlap the generations. The “Greatest Generation” had WWII and Korea, the Baby Boomers had President John Kennedy’s assassination, Vietnam, and the first trips to space and moon. The next generation covers so many different years that it literally depends on which study you follow. I, myself, fall in the Generation X, Generation Y AND the Millennials. We had the World Trade Center bombing in 1993, Desert Storm, 9/11, the War against Terrorism. And me being, from Oklahoma, add monster tornadoes to that list; May 8, 1986, May 3, 1999, the El Reno and Moore tornadoes in 2013. The subject of who is in which generational title could probably be filled in a blog unto itself, one which I will not be covering.

My point is that each generation has its disasters specifically to that generation, even though many generations will share experiencing the same disaster. One man-made disaster I did not list is what I want to do my blog on today. The Bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.

Wednesday April, 19, 1995 started out just like any other day. People went to work and school, businesses opened for customers. Many of those businesses were unlocking their doors at 9am, opening their blinds, sprucing up final touches when the bottom dropped out the day. A moving van had parked in front of the federal building where the social security office was located, among countless other government offices and a child care facility. The van was filled with 4,200 lbs. of ammonium nitrate mixed with a high octane racing fuel.

Alfred P. Murrah Building, May 1995. Part of the gifts woven into the fence surrounding the site.
I, myself, was sitting in my seventh grade math class listening to my teacher explain the day’s assignment. 9:02am, just as she was writing a number eight on the chalk board, a noise which sounded like a couple of close lightning strikes rattled the windows, and rumbled our seats. On the north side of the room, we had a bank of windows and several children got up on their desks to see if they could see any clouds that had creeped up on us that clear morning. When none was found, we settled. By mid-day, the rumor of a bomb going off had made the rounds, and I fearfully denied that rumor. Even more when a classmate told me that the principal had come in to her English class and let the teacher know her husband was near the bombing, but not in it and was okay. I didn’t believe it until the last hour of the day, when we gathered around her all wondering the same thing.  It was true.

My mother had gone to her part-time job at a local non-profit organization that trained hearing-ear dogs for the deaf and hard-of-hearing that morning. At the exact same time she turned on the heater in the office, the bomb went off. She went out to see if the propane tank had exploded and met a co-worker who asked what she’d blown up as a tease.

That day, not only did our lives as Oklahomans changed, but the nation’s. We taught the nation how to treat rescue workers. They would say, “We need this, that, boots and food for the SAR dogs,” and donations came pouring in to the point they reported no more donations were needed. No, please stop, we have too much! But that wasn’t the standard. When those workers came up to get what they needed, they expected to pay for it like they had to at other disaster sites. We denied payment. This was our heart who was hurting—our people, our family. They got whatever they needed free of charge. My father has volunteered at the Bombing Museum that was established years later. He said that one story is that one rescue worker when asked if there was any he needed, rubbed his bald head and teased, “A barber.” The next morning, there were barbers lined up ready to donate their services. This is the Oklahoma standard, which the nation learned and adopted on 9/11. Back in Oklahoma City, the search and rescue continued. 168 people, including 19 children in the childcare center of the federal building, died that morning.

Part of the "Pennies Path"
The families of those lost that day weren’t the only ones changed. It wasn’t only the search and rescues workers whose lives were changed. It was our state. And the nation hurt and mourned with us. Over the years as the healing began, the process of a memorial began. There were two specific fundraisers that stick out for me. One was “168 Pennies” and the other was the “19 Pennies”, raising over half a million dollars in pennies. There was a path affectionately called the “Pennies Path” by the volunteers, where they had some protective cover on the pennies. Recent renovations to the museum have taken that walk out. My father was honored to receive a piece for the years he volunteered there. There are tons of Survivor's Stories out there and a lot of information (including conspiracy theories), which you can investigate to your heart's content. If you would like to look at a little, you're welcome to visit my pinterest page and check out my April 19, 1995 board.

Picture by Tony Stizza, Director of Video
Taken on Christmas Eve, 2009
Used by permission
Even though the museum has specific hours, the Reflection Pool and the grounds around the museum are open 24/7 and have a solemn, sad beauty no matter the season. Please visit the Bombing Memorial’s website to find out specific information at www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org
And join us in Never Forgetting.

Born and raised in the Edmond, OK area, Alanna Radle Rodriguez is the great, great, granddaughter of one of the first pioneers to help settle the area around what is now Seminole, Oklahoma. The fourth generation in a line of women in her family to be born in Indian Territory/Oklahoma, she has lived in her beloved state all her life. With her knowledge of surrounding area history, her heart relishes in volunteering at the Oklahoma Territorial Schoolhouse in Edmond. She lives with her husband and parents in the Edmond area, currently working on a historical romance set in pre-statehood Waterloo, Oklahoma.


  1. I remember this day so well. Turn on the tv to watch it while I was folding laundry and never turned it off the rest of the day. I was shocked to learned the bombing had occurred in OK. Nothing like that ever happens here. Such a sad day, but it was great news that lawmen caught the bomber and the others involved so quickly.

    1. It was indeed, Vickie. I had met someone who was related to the officer who pulled him over. Said it was a freak accident and completely non-related to the suspect search.

    2. Yeah, I heard that. I don't think it was an accident but rather God's providence.

  2. Such a sad day...like many other days we've had in this country. God Bless America.

    1. So very true, chappydebbie. And so many others I'm sure we, as a nation, will face. Thank you for reading.

  3. Greatjob! I had just started eating breakfast at "your local Waffle House" when it went off and we felt the shake.

    1. It was definitely a scary morning. And thanks for your encouragement, Janet. Miss working with you!

  4. I was teaching fifth grade and we heard, felt, and looked out our window to see the cloud the explosion made. My husband was activated for weeks following with the guard. I lost a classmate from UCO that was going to be a principal like me. But he was a three time over war vet and was killed by the axel of the Ryder truck. Never forget and today all the pain and emotions wave over me.