Monday, April 19, 2010

My Personal Account of the Oklahoma City Bombing

April 19, 1995. The most horrific day in Oklahoma history. I remember it like it was yesterday.

It was a beautiful, sunny day - not a cloud in the sky. I was doing a teaching internship with Mr. Stiglets, a first grade teacher at a school in Mid West City, just east of Oklahoma City.

9:00 A.M. - Time for school to begin. The kids were already busy doing their schoolwork. The school announcements came on over the intercom telling us about the day's events and telling us to have a good day. If they only knew what was to come.

9:02 A.M. - I heard a faint rumbling sound. It was so faint that the kids kept on working and didn't even notice. I thought it was maybe my imagination but a few minutes later, someone from the school office came to our room to inform Mr. Stiglets and me that there was an explosion, possibly a bombing in downtown Oklahoma City.

We were a little concerned about it but not too bothered, not knowing all the details. A few minutes later,  the school office lady returned and told us it was much more serious. We turned on the T.V. in our classroom and quickly learned that the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building had been bombed. We were both in shock but tried to not act too worried so as not to upset the children. They kept on busily working while we watched the news in disbelief.

I began to really get worried because my mother lived in a sky rise apartment in downtown OKC, and my father worked downtown. I had no idea where the Murrah building was in comparison to where they lived and worked.

Then Mr. Stiglets said with a blank stare on his face, "My son works at the Murrah building!" He immediately left the room to call his son but he never answered the phone. He kept calling and calling but soon the phone system went down because of so many people calling downtown to see if their loved ones were okay.

We tried to go about our day as "usual" but it was so difficult. The unknown was almost unbearable. Hours later Mr. Stiglets finally received a phone call from his son! He was okay! He just so happened to be looking for a parking space when the explosion occurred. He was running late that day and should have been in his office. He shouldn't have been able to make that phone call. Many more  miracles with similar stories were reported in the days after the bombing.

About noon, I just couldn't face the unknown anymore. Mr. Stiglets let me have the rest of the day off and I headed straight to downtown to see if I could find any answers about my parents since the phones were down. Unfortunately, every entrance into downtown was blocked and I could not get in. So, I just went home and waited for a phone call.

I finally heard from my step-mother that my dad was fine. His building, Liberty National Bank, was several blocks away. They felt the explosion but it didn't have any noticeable damage.

My mother was not so fortunate. The sky rise apartment she lived in, the Regency Tower Apartments, was right across the street from the Murrah building. At the moment of the explosion, all the windows in the building were blown in. Glass and major damage was everywhere. She lived on the 12th floor and immediately the elevators shut down. Many of the residents were elderly and had major health problems. My mom knew she needed to get out of the building, so she had to walk down 12 floors and helped many of the residents down - some were blind, some had breathing issues and some had heart conditions. She doesn't remember a lot from that day but what she does remember was all the mass chaos and seeing people hurt and in need.

Everything on T.V. for the next week centered around the OKC Bombing. The details were so grim and bleak, but at the same time it was amazing to see so many people pull together and give of their time, services and monies and make something good of something that was so bad.

The following year, I found myself teaching kindergarten in Grapevine, Texas. I wanted my students to know about that day in history - minus all the graphic details to protect their little minds. But my students wanted those who were affected by the Bombing to know that their thoughts were with them. So they made a huge poster and on the anniversary date, I took it to the bombing site and hung it on the fence - couldn't miss it in bright yellow :-) I was so sad to see so much devastation - even a year later. Here's a few pics from that day...

So what do you do in the midst of tragedy? You move on. You pick up what's left of the pieces and move on. And that's just what everyone did. Of course there was much pain and suffering - you could not watch the news and not be affected by it. But God brought good out of something bad and made Oklahoman's strong in spite of it.

And a little update on Mr. Stiglets... I did a google search to see if I could track him down and found this picture and caption on the Mid-Del Schools Facebook Page: "Mike 'Piggy' Stiglets is the Principal at Ridgecrest Elementary in Midwest City. Mike has been an educator for over 33 years. He is known as Mr. Piggy. Over the years, his students, staff and parents have given him pigs as a sign of appreciation and for fun. Mike has kept each and every pig he has received and tagged each one with the name of the student that provided the gift. He currently has the pigs on display at Ridgecrest Elementary. The students have enjoyed seeing the pig collection." I'm glad Mr. Stiglets is doing well and wish I could let him know I was thinking of him on this 15th anniversary.

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