April 20, 1995 in Nation/World

Walls Tumble; World Falls Apart Explosion Turns Mundane Workday Into Horrible Scene Of Random Death

Associated Press
 

A worker killed sitting in his office. A woman burned to death getting out of her car. Children’s toys blown from a day-care center onto the street below.

Time stopped in downtown Oklahoma City at 9:04 a.m. Wednesday when a bomb went off at the federal building.

Workers in the front offices tumbled out of the nine-story building to the street below. One man fell into the 30-foot-wide bomb crater.

“I was just sitting at my desk and all of a sudden I just looked up and everything came down,” sobbed Delynda Casteel, who was working at a building two blocks from the blast site. “I screamed and ran.”

So did thousands of others.

“People were out there in their underwear with glass and plaster over their heads, faces and bodies,” said state Rep. Kevin Cox. The injured left a trail of blood for blocks as they fled.

Gary Jenkins, an emergency medical technician, cried as he described the carnage inside the federal building as “inconceivable.”

“Whoever’s responsible for that should die the vicious death that many of those people died in that building,” he said. “I just want to go home and hold my kid.”

The explosion blew rubble from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building across a street and a parking lot and into the side of the Journal Record building 50 yards away.

“I saw the explosion through my window as I was working,” said Mark Johnson, a computer programmer in an office on the fifth floor of the Journal building. “I saw the white ball of light.”

“It’s kind of like a slow-motion movie. I could feel myself turning away from it. As I had my head turned, the impact hit. It kind of blew me out of my chair.”

Black smoke billowed from dozens of burning cars, some of which were overturned by the blast.

One woman who was getting out of her parked car was found burned to death.

Rescuers formed a human chain 30 yards long to pull the metal and drywall from the building. It took five hours to pull file cabinets, computers and bricks off one survivor, whose only visible injuries were cuts on her arms and hands and a gash on her leg.

“It was just body after body after body,” said Dr. Peter Maningas, the lead medical officer at the building.

Across the street, the stained-glass windows of St. Joseph’s Old Cathedral were blown out and the interior of the rectory was in shambles.

The Rev. Ray Ackerman said it was a miracle no one was in the rectory at the time of the blast. Usually, four people would have been inside, but Wednesday morning, the secretary had gone grocery shopping with the cleaning lady; the pastor had gone to the bank; and the maintenance man was late for work.

© Copyright 1995 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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