Written by MJ Reporter Willow LaMunyon
I am writing this on April 19. If that has meaning to you, you likely lived in Oklahoma or knew someone from Oklahoma City on this date in 1995. There are so very many stories about the bombing of the Murrah Building. Here is mine.
A little after nine that morning, I called my firstborn to wish him a happy birthday, and before I said more than hi, he asked me what was going on there. I said I would check and call him back. For a few more seconds, I remained innocent of the tragedy that was happening. Then I turned the TV on, expecting nothing important, when the news exploded in my face.
The reporter on the station I was watching was broadcasting as he saw events taking place. His voice was so emotion-filled that he had to stop several times to regain his composure. The screen showed so much smoke that the scene appeared to be in black and white. I called my son back, and we made several calls back and forth that day since he wasn’t getting as much news as I was since he lived in Texas.
My Oklahoma City family reported their safety to us but talked about how the bomb could be heard and felt across the entire city. A good friend of mine, Harriet Slater, told me her husband, Dan Slater, had lost his sister in the bombing. She was Diane Hollingworth Althohouse.
A memorial was built, and several years after that, my story began. A friend, Jayson Clark, and I went to Oklahoma City thinking we would be back by early afternoon. Jayson had previously lived there, and he showed me some of his favorite places. Somewhere in our conversation, the Memorial to the bombing came up, and I told him I had never been there, so we went. As soon as we entered the building, there were notices to turn off our cell phones. The building had the hush of a temple except for a recording of a meeting going on that somehow remained intact during the bombing. It included part of a business meeting, then the bomb and people shouting. The voices we heard were from people who died just a few minutes later. I knew about it, but hearing that recording in that building seriously impacted both of us, even though Jayson had been there previously.
There is a display for each of those who perished that day. The items in the individual cases were provided by their families to represent things important to the deceased. The very first case was for Diane Hollingworth Althouse, Dan’s sister. I think I stared at it for a few minutes before it actually registered what I was seeing. All those cases were the representation of real people. During the years separating the bombing and the day we toured the Memorial, the horror of that bombing became real in a way nothing else could as it fully touched me.
Jayson and I went to the reflecting pool with empty chairs representing those who were lost that day. All those chairs, all those deaths…
We were very quiet as we went home watching the sunset until I remembered I hadn’t let my husband know I would be home late. I turned my phone back on, having forgotten to do that earlier, and called my angry husband, who couldn’t reach me and feared I had been in an accident. I thought of all the families who never got a call from their lost loved ones and gave the sincerest apology to my husband that I gave anyone.
A total of 168 people were killed, including 19 children, and more than 500 were injured.