At 9:02 am Central Standard Time a rental truck carrying almost 5,000 pounds (2,200 kg) of ammonium nitrate, nitromethane and diesel fuel, exploded in front of the building (North Side). The blast could be heard and felt up to 55 miles (88.5 km) away. Seismometers in Norman, Oklahoma (16 miles/ 25.7 km away) measured the blast as approximately 3.0 in the Richter Scale.
It was estimated that inside the nine story building there were approximately 646 people at the time of the explosion. The blast created a 30 foot (9.1 meter)wide, 8 foot (2.4 meter) deep crater next to the building and destroyed fully one third of the building itself. A further 324 buildings in a sixteen block area were either destroyed or damaged, and shattered glass in an additional 258 buildings. Also destroyed were 86 parked vehicles around the area. The bomb was estimated to have caused a minimum of $652 million in damage. But the worst was the human cost.
168 people died (possibly 169 as a leg was found but no body to match it), including 19 children aged 6 years and younger. The Murrah Building had a daycare center on one of the lower floors, and the bomb truck was parked directly across from it.
This pulitzer prize photo is of fireman Chris Fields holding dying infant Baylee Almon It has largely become the 'face' of the bombing. It was 1 day after her first birthday (CAUTION DISTURBING PHOTO)
The victims ranged in age from three months to seventy-three years. 163 (possibly 164) were killed in the Murrah Building, 1 in the nearby Athenian building, one in a parking lot, and man and woman in the Oklahoma Water Resources Building (next door) and a rescue worker who was struck on the head by a falling brick. Three of the victims were pregnant. More than 680 people were injured with abrasions, severe burns and broken bones. It is estimated that over 387,000 people in the OKC metro area (a third of the population) knew someone who was directly affected by the bombing.
Response to the explosion was immediate. By 9:03 am (1 minute later) the first of over 1,800 calls to the 9-1-1 emergency number were received. But ambulances, police and firefighters were already on their way – having heard the blast. Nearby people who had heard, or seen the blast immediately began assisting the survivors and early emergency personnel. Within 23 minutes the State Emergency Operations Center was set up and running, manned by personnel from the Department of Public Safety, Human Services, Military, Health, and Education. Also assisting were agencies such as the National Weather Service, the Air Force from nearby Tinker Air Force Base, Civil Air Patrol and the American Red Cross. Within the hour 465 members of the Oklahoma Army National Guard as well as members of the Department of Emergency Management arrived to provide security and to help search for survivors.
An EMS command post was set up within minutes of the attack and established a triage, treatment, transportation and decontamination center, as well as a temporary morgue. Within the first hour over 200 patients were treated and transported to nearby hospitals.
In the next few days over 12,000 people participated in relief and rescue operations, as well as 24 K-9 search units from across the country.
Response and aid from across the country was rapid and overwhelming in many cases. Large quantities of supplies began streaming in from all across the nation, including wheelbarrows, bottled water, helmet lights, knee pads, rain gear, boots specially designed from search and rescue dogs – to protect their sensitive paw-pads, and even football helmets. Rescue crews began arriving within hours from Tulsa, Dallas/Ft. Worth and other nearby large cities. Many firefighters and rescue personnel arrived from New York City, and tragically many would lose their lives 6 years later in the World Trade Center attacks.
Five years later, to the day, the Oklahoma City National Memorial was opened and dedicated. The memorial includes a reflecting pool flanked by two large gates, one inscribed with the time 9:01 and the other with 9:03, the pool and other features representing 9:02 – the moment of the blast.
On the south end of the memorial is a field of symbolic bronze and stone chairs – one for each person killed in the bombing. The chairs are arranged according to what floor of the building the person who’s name is inscribed on the chair was on. The chairs represent the empty chairs at the dinner tables of the victims’ families. The chairs representing the children are smaller than the ones for the adults. On the opposite side of the reflecting pool, is the “Survivor Tree”. This elm tree was part of the original buildings landscaping and managed to survive the blast, the fires and the rescue equipment that followed. A chain-link fence that was hastily emplaced following the blast has been used as a memorial site by many people. Over 800,000 items have been placed on the fence, including prayers, photo’s, teddy bears and letters to the victims from family members and friends.
North of the memorial is the Journal Record Building, which now houses the National Memorial Museum – part of the National Park Service. It also contains the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism – a law enforcement training center.
On a personal note: I was located 18 miles away at the time of the blast, in a noisy factory that had no windows. The sound was louder than thunder. My first thoughts, as I watched it on television was that it was a natural gas explosion. I could not conceive of anyone targeting Oklahoma City, after all what foreigners even knew about the city, and no American would do something as hideous as this… I do so wish I had been right.
I knew two people who died in the bombing and am close friends with another who was injured (very slightly injured thank goodness).
I was never so proud of my fellow ‘Okies’ as I was by the response of the people of OKC. Rescue workers frequently remarked that they had never been treated so well while working – one complained half- jokingly that he had gained 5 pounds in the ten days he had been here.
If anyone is in the Oklahoma City area I recommend visiting the Memorial site. It is one of the most moving and well done memorials I have ever seen.
Young Baylee Almons chair...
Perhaps fittingly, across the street from the site - but not part of it and built many years before, is a statue called "Jesus Wept"