On April 19th, 1995 at 9:02am a Ryder Rental truck rigged as a VBIED detonated next to the Alfred P Murray Federal Building in Oklahoma City, in close proximity to that building’s nursery. It was at the time the deadliest terrorist attack the United States had suffered. 168 people were murdered and more than 600 were injured, 19 of them children. One was the baby you see in the picture above, in the arms of OKCFD firefighter Chris Fields.
Today we do more than remember the victims, we remember the incredible response from around the country. While no doubt some of you reading this weren’t alive when it happened, others remember it well. The main minion, David Reeder, was there for the immediate aftermath and wrote this on his Facebook page last year. We ran it last year as an article and reckoned we’d do so again this year. Mad Duo
20 Years and 168 Lives Ago
by David Reeder
By the night of April 21st most of downtown was empty, surrounded by a makeshift fence and patrolled by LE and National Guardsmen who – thankfully – never had to deal with looters, secondary attackers or imitators. It was cold and wet and windy. The cold later turned out to be blessing — it helped preserve bodies that took days and weeks to recover.
Every morning at the end of our night shift we watched lines of hopeful rescue workers, many of them big men with huge mustaches, troop into the rubble. We’d report for duty 12 hours later to watch them come back out again, slump shouldered in tears and slinging snot, sometimes bearing body bags. Too often those were tiny ones.
Rescue crews from other jurisdictions were on scene and were a tremendous help, but whenever they uncovered a body they stood aside. Every casualty that I know of was brought down by someone from Oklahoma City.
By late afternoon on the 22nd there was a line of people from around the country filing around the perimeter to pay their respects and put tokens of love or remembrance into the fence. That line was literally unending, even into the wee hours of the morning. Someone on an Oklahoma City radio station said responders needed batteries, cold weather layers, thermoses and the like – within a couple of hours every single battery, flashlight, thermos, sets of long underwear and pair of gloves within a hundred miles or more of Oklahoma City had been bought up and brought to the site. You couldn’t find anything the rescuers might have needed within 2-3 hours of the city for love nor money.
There were people driving to Tulsa and Dallas to buy things, then bringing piles of supplies in on foot because it was hard to get close in a vehicle. That was heart wrenching and awesome. One night while I was posted at the chapel I had to tell a man and his little boy about 4am that no, we had not yet heard anything about their wife/mom and no they’d yet to pull any survivors out (that I was aware of) since the first day, then watch them leave, disconsolate and eerily resigned – that was heart wrenching and terrible.
That little boy is in his mid- to late 20s now. All those kids who were killed would be the same age.
20 years ago we saw the worst and then the best in people. It’s unrealistic to think we’ll “never forget.” Everything becomes more faded with time and the edges get a little more worn off every year, but take a minute today to think about all those we lost and everyone who responded to help. Spend a few minutes showing your kids what happened, good and bad, and if you ever get the chance, visit the memorial. If you can’t do it in person, do it virtually.
Mad Duo, Breach-Bang& CLEAR!
Emergency: Activate firefly, deploy green (or brown) star cluster, get your wank sock out of your ruck and stand by ’til we come get you.
About the Author: Someone has to corral the writing team, handle business expenses and bail the Mad Duo (and their minions) out of jail. For years the Pentagon, JSOC and the International Association of Chiefs of Police sought an impeccable man to lead the pedagogic and frequently obstreperous team of Breach Bang Clear writers. They needed someone charismatic, a warrior, able to maintain mental acuity under the worst stressors. Unfortunately the program suffered severe budget cuts so they ended up with David Reeder. Reeder is the Mad Duo’s Chief Wretched Flunky and Breach-Bang-Clear’s HMFIC. A LEO for many years and former AF Security Forces SNCO, his mastery of tactical sesquipedalianism is unmatched in modern times. He’s a self-professed POG who taught MOUT at the Bold Lighting Urban Warfare School and later combat tracking to members of all branches. As a LEO he worked patrol, training, SWAT and counter-narcotics and was on the OC-evaluation team at the National Homeland Security Training Center. You can read more about him here.