Story by Katie Duer
“The Disaster Next Door” Series is Rose State College’s Emergency Management speaker series, serving as a platform for experts to share their experiences from some of the most devastating disasters the state has seen. On Thursday, April 12, Albert Ashwood, director of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, discussed the Oklahoma City bombing and its effects on Oklahoma since its occurrence in 1995.
Ashwood began by asking the audience if they remember where they were in 1995 when the Murrah Federal Building was bombed. He discussed how much has changed and how different the culture was back then. Bill Clinton was president of the United States and Frank Keating was the Governor of Oklahoma. George Foreman Grills had just gained popularity and “Toy Story” was the top movie. Technology was very different as well; Ashford showed photographs of large bulky computers that used floppy disks and bag mobile phones as large as car batteries. These old photographs showed the skyline of Oklahoma City with no Devon tower, and also how vastly different Bricktown looked in 1995.
Ashwood then began to speak of the history of the Department of Emergency Management, also known as the state EOC. The Department of Emergency Management mission read as follows in 1995, and remains the same today: To minimize the effects of all disasters and emergencies upon the people of Oklahoma through mitigation, preparedness and recovery programs.
Ashwood then began to discuss the layout of the Murrah Federal building, describing which departments were on what floor on the day of the event.
On April 19, 1995, 168 lives were lost, 169 if you count an officer who took his own life; 514 people were injured; 30 children were left orphaned; and 219 children were left with one parent. The explosion damaged 312 buildings.
The facts of this incident were still very much unknown in those first few hours after the explosion. Ashwood described that upon his arrival to the scene, his first instinct was that the explosion had been caused by a gas leak. He explained that an act of terrorism had not even crossed his mind. He showed a map of the area surrounding the Murrah building, pointed out where triages and command posts were set up for the different responding teams and even where media was stationed.
The Oklahoma City bombing Memorial, designed by Bob Johnson and built where the Murrah Federal building once stood, stands to honor those impacted by the bombing.
“Bob Johnson … had a really hard job. He had the job of getting all of the families, the survivors, the victims’ families, the rescue workers all together and saying how do we want to memorialize this event,” Ashwood said about designing and creating The Oklahoma City bombing Memorial. “Let me tell you, nerves were raw.” The Memorial and museum still remains today to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those whose lives were changed forever.
The discussion lasted about an hour and a half and was very informative. Plenty of photos were displayed as well as tales of how emergency teams, officers of the law, local civilians and volunteers from all of the nation came together during the disaster. The live recording is available at https://www.facebook.com/RoseState/videos/2128668550483565/.