Oklahomans Looking Back and Thinking Forward: 25 Years after the Murrah Building Bombing
Vol.6 Issue 3
Looking Back – Thinking Forward logo.

As the state and nation come together on April 19 to reflect on a domestic terrorist attack that occurred 25 years ago, we are reminded of the senseless deaths and injuries that occurred, which rocked our personal foundations and our institutions. The impact and the resolve, the hope and community spirit that followed in the aftermath and over the years have become a testament to Oklahoma’s sense of unity, compassion, and heroism.

The Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center has been a vital partner in supporting our community, as some victims and survivors are part of our own Aeronautical Center family. In 1997, when the trials in Denver, Colorado were being conducted for bombers, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, the Aeronautical Center provided survivors and relatives access to closed-circuit television in the headquarters auditorium, watching as the court proceedings unfolded.

The Murrah bombing incident heightened security at all federal buildings across the nation. Even Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House was closed. President Clinton stated, "Clearly, this closing is necessary because of the changing nature and scope of the threat of terrorist actions. It should be seen as a responsible security step necessary to preserve our freedom, not part of a long-term restriction of our freedom." Prior to the Oklahoma City bombing, the government had no rigorous standards for security design. It was only after the terrorist attacks of 9/11 that trash cans and flower planters were removed near public facilities and replaced with barriers erected in front of buildings.

As lives were drastically changed on April 19th, something called ’The Oklahoma Standard’ was born. It is reflected in the way Oklahomans live their lives, in response to the needs of their neighbors, fellow citizens and communities. It is based on the core values of Service, Honor and Kindness.

It is with much gratitude and compassion that two Murrah survivors and FAA-related individuals were willing to share their personal journeys with us.


At the time of the bombing, I was working for the Oklahoma Guaranteed Student Loan Program. I had worked there two years and there were over a hundred employees at this facility. We were located in the Journal Record Building directly across from the Murrah Building. My office was on the third floor.

That particular day, I woke up with terrible seasonal allergies. I went into work but my sinuses were really bad. My boss suggested that I go back home or go to the store to get some medicine so that I could have some relief. I agreed.

Where the survivor tree currently stands, there used to be gravel parking lot where my car was parked. In walking through the building to get to my car, I walked down the stairs to exit and I was taking a step down, when the bomb exploded. After that, I was unconscious. I was physically blown out into the street. It was mass chaos, people were walking and running around trying to figure out what just happened. I had friends who knew that I had exited the building and they were out looking for me. About 15-minutes later, I awoke surrounded by friends and strangers. I didn’t know it, but I had cuts on my face, hands and wrists from glass shards. I remember the air being filled with debris and particles floating everywhere. They treated me the best they could. Medics had been dispatched, but as we later learned, the need was great. Hundreds of people were affected. My car looked like someone had taken a large vacuum and sucked all the air out of it. It was just a compressed piece of metal located in the middle of the street. I soon realized how blessed that I was. I was alive and it could have been much worse. When the medics arrived, they transported me to the VA Hospital.

At the time, my husband was in the military and they had asked him to volunteer to help with the situation, only quickly to realize that this was near the area where I worked. It wouldn’t be until later that evening that he would learn that I was okay and was being treated at a nearby hospital.

I learned that my desk at work was unrecognizable. Mini blinds were lodged through my chair and into the wall, much like we see in the aftermath of a tornado.

One thing that stands out; I remember that our organization didn’t have a plan in place for this type of emergency. Sure, we had fire/tornado/bomb threat plans that we practiced, but we weren’t prepared for something like this. No one was prepared. This isn’t something that you want to experience. I equate this to what happened to our brothers and sisters during the 9-11 attacks, but this Oklahoma bombing was a home-grown terrorist, living on American soil.

The years following this incident have been rough, but it is my faith in a higher power that has given me strength. I can’t imagine what it would be like, if I didn’t have my faith. For some time, I was afraid to go out in public, afraid of government buildings, loud noises, and a lot of things caused me anxiety. With God’s help and through counseling, I am in a really good place and I know that I am very blessed to be alive.

I continued to work for Oklahoma Guaranteed Student Loan Program for another four years, but my anxieties overtook me – surrounded by too many federal buildings with little, to no security. I eventually left and went to work for Dobson Communications and worked for them for about 8 years. Due to the growth of the company, they wanted to relocate my job to Atlanta. Since I wanted to remain in Oklahoma, I quit and later applied and was accepted to work at a temporary agency for the FAA. I worked for Dan Smith as a Section Secretary, and then after a short period of time everyone was furloughed. I then went to work for the State of Oklahoma. It wouldn’t be until about 4 years ago, that I would reapply to the FAA – only this time to be hired as a federal employee working in the same Technical Training Organization as before; at the FAA Academy.

Deloris Moore, Management & Program Analyst, FAA Academy

With regard to the Oklahoma bombing, my name is engraved on the Wall of Survivors. My family and extended family take time to go there every year. We make it a family activity to walk in the Oklahoma Memorial Marathon and visit the grounds. I share my story with my children and grandchildren so that they will have a better understanding of what it means to be a survivor, and to understand the real effects of hatred.

For a time, I lost my faith in humanity, but I didn’t lose my life. The experience has tested my trust in people and made me reevaluate fear. In spite of all the bad things that happened, there have been some miraculous things that occurred. I was able to meet the President; I was invited to luncheons with the President and the Governor, and through everything, there wasn’t anything that I needed that wasn’t supplied. It’s that Oklahoma Standard – so many good people helping pull you through. Seasons change and there will always be challenges, like what we are going through now with the coronavirus and with everyone having to be socially distant, wearing masks. I am convinced that it’s all about referring to a higher power to make it through.

Delores Moore, Management & Program Analyst, FAA Academy


At the time of the bombing, my daughter and I were working for the Internal Revenue Service, just three blocks away from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Although we worked on different floors, we would get together frequently. My daughter was young and divorced, with two sons and living with my husband and I at the time. While they were my grandsons, you have a closer bond when you see them every day and you get to watch them grow and connect with them, day in and day out. On the morning of the bombing, I had gone in to check on the boys in their bedroom, but Chase (almost 4 years old) & Colton (2 years old) were not in their beds. Sometime during the night, they had walked to their mother’s room and nestled into bed with her and were snuggled on either side of her. That is such a sweet, lasting memory. My daughter, Edye was thinking about staying home the following morning, but one of her coworkers had convinced her to come to work, as her birthday was just a few days away, and they had baked her a cake. So Edye and I went to work, dropping the boys off at the day care center, as we each started our work day.

When we got to work, we each went to our respective work areas, with plans to see each other again later that day. As planned, Edye’s co-workers in the office baked her a cake and were singing ’Happy Birthday’ to her. Edye walked across the room to blow out the candles on her cake when the explosion occurred.

I ran down two flights of stairs to get to Edye’s floor to see what was going on and to see if she was okay. Everyone was standing around trying to figure out what had just happened. An employee commented "Someone blew up the bank!" Edye and I went outside to see if we could get a better look. When we got outside, it was though we had entered ’The Twilight Zone.’ Those who were outside were moving slowly. No cars were in motion on the street. After looking around, we saw plumes of smoke coming from blocks away. Multitudes of windows had been blown out and plates of glass were falling down all around us. We could hear a series of alarms and explosions from cars in parking lots happening around us. When Edye and I looked at the proximity of the smoke, she screamed "My babies! My babies!" We ran as fast as we could to the Murrah building where the daycare center was located. Nineteen children were located in the building that day. Half of the Murrah building was in rubble. The daycare center was on the second floor, but nothing was left but a pancake pile of debris. My daughter fell to her knees, "My babies! My babies!" Law enforcement was beginning to arrive and were encouraging everyone to stay away as other bomb threats were on-going.

My son was a police officer but happened to be off-duty that day. He was watching the television coverage of the bombing when he saw me and his sister on a news broadcast. He knew something was dreadfully wrong and immediately went downtown to find us. We were desperately trying to find Chase and Colton. Many friends and family members were being steered to local hospitals to wait for further information. We had given photos of the grandsons to a nurse, so the boys could be identified if they were brought in. Eventually, my son did find Colton on a nearby bench, where a firefighter had left him after trying to administer CPR, but his little body gave in after being pierced by a large shard of glass. After long periods of waiting and searching, my son finally located Chase. His body was located in a make-shift, refrigerated morgue located near ground zero.

In a matter of minutes, our world was turned upside down. Our belief systems were challenged. Every day, I had always prayed for the well-being of my grandsons and my family. How could God let this happen? I was always able to help or fix something whenever my children or grandchildren had problems. But this… this was something I could not begin to fix. It was gut-wrenching to drive home with two empty car seats in my vehicle.

It was incredibly painful to turn on the news and see a parent of a child who had survived, holding their child in the hospital. They said, "You know, I just prayed and asked for my little boy to hold on, and God answered my prayers and here’s my little boy." This was like a punch in the gut. Why did God respond to them and not to me? I have since learned that God is not a cherry picker. I don’t believe that God says, "You know, I think I’ll take this child and I’ll take that one, and I’ll save this one and let all those others perish." People need to be careful with the words they use, sometimes in trying to be helpful they can be very hurtful. Compassion and empathy are what is needed, not justification for why a life was saved.

While the details of what happened that day haven’t changed, my reflections and responses to those tragedies have. It has been a journey about faith, taking me from grief, shock and anger to what I feel now – healing and forgiveness. I believe in doing things for others, because that is what I believe that we are supposed to do as humans. Although on April 19th I became a victim, I have since learned that I don’t have to stay a victim. When I was at my lowest, I began to pray for Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. I don’t know if my prayers helped them, but they certainly helped me. Through this whole ordeal, my life has changed greatly. After being widowed, I remarried. I now have grandchildren and ’bonus’ grandchildren. I get to see everything through their eyes. I do think about Chase and Colton, and they will forever be 2 and 4 years old to me. I’ve learned that it’s important to share your stories, whether through public speaking or in writing. Ultimately, I want my life to count. When I lay my head down every night, it’s important for me to know that I have accomplished something.

Kathy Sanders (is the sister-in-law of Pam Graham. Pam works in the Training Services Support Division in the FAA Academy).

The question that I get asked most often is, "How can you stand to tell your story?" People are always scared that they are going to make me cry. But when you lose a child, you realize that they didn’t live long enough to create a legacy, and you want to be sure they are not forgotten. So, I love for people to ask me about Chase and Colton.

Kathy Sanders (is the sister-in-law of Pam Graham. Pam works in the Training Services Support Division in the FAA Academy). Kathy has authored two books, "Now You See Me: How I Forgave the Unforgivable" and "After Oklahoma City: A Grieving Grandmother Uncovers Shocking Truths About the Bombing… and Herself." She is currently working on a novel about the Murrah Bombing, which she hopes to publish in the near future. She is also an avid artist, painting portraits for those who have lost children, like those lost in the tornado that hit Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore, Oklahoma on May 20, 2013.

This month in particular, we hear stories about Oklahoma families that have been greatly impacted by this one horrific incident. But out of horror came hope, as we observe with the community spirit that continues to grow throughout our state.

While the memorial service for Murrah bombing victims and survivors could not be conducted the same as in year’s past (due to the coronavirus), a remembrance ceremony was held to recognize the 168 lives that were lost and the 19 children’s lives that perished. A one-hour long ceremony was aired on local television stations, as well as on the Oklahoma City National Memorial’s website and Facebook page. A reading of the names of those who perished with 168 seconds of silence remains part of the annual tribute. The Museum is temporarily closed because of the pandemic, but the Memorial Grounds remain open.

20 year anniversary logo for OKC Memorial Marathon.

In commemoration of the 25th Anniversary:
The Memorial Store has new items commemorating the 25th Anniversary.

The 20th Annual Memorial Marathon has been postponed until October 4th. Over 23,000 people are expected to participate, representing every state and many countries abroad.

The National Basketball Association’s OKC Thunder is providing free admission to the museum for all visitors (one day a month) for the entire calendar year. The OKC Thunder team also plans to wear special commemorative uniforms during some of their games. The team also presented families of the victims with a medallion depicting a survivor tree, a scarred American elm that withstood the blast, replicas of a uniform jersey with the names of victims on the back, and the number 95, (representing the year that the bombing occurred).

The OKC Dodgers (Oklahoma’s minor league baseball team) is retiring no. 168 and no. 19 this year. The No. 168 will be displayed on the left field wall, next to the retired No. 1 and 42. No. 168 will be unveiled on the Dodger’s First Responder’s Weekend.

As we continue to honor those who were killed, those who survived, and those whose lives were changed forever, we are reminded of the words of the late Reverend Billy Graham during the statewide prayer service in Oklahoma City on the Sunday following April 19th, "The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us…" It is through this pain and grief that we have all grown. We have learned to not take this day or any other day for granted.

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