Federal Building Is Laid To Rest Demolition Helps City Begin Healing From Terror Attack
With just 150 pounds of explosives, a demolition crew did Tuesday what a terrorist’s 2 1/2-ton bomb could not, reducing the remains of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building into one last heap of debris.
After the first charges were ignited at 7:01 a.m., the gutted structure instantly caved in on itself, toppling like a wounded behemoth after a “coup de grace” to the shins. Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, standing in front of the city’s oddly empty skyline, said he was relieved that “a symbol of horror and misery and agony” finally had been erased.
“You really wanted to kick the rubble and say: ‘There, it’s over, you’re outta here,”’ said Keating, shortly after surveying the crumpled building. “There was almost a feeling of exhilaration.”
A few minutes later, as if to signal that indeed a corner had been turned, a worker began pasting over an inspirational billboard near the site. After a month of proclaiming, “Oklahoma City … Our Hearts and Prayers are with You,” it was now an advertisement for breakfast at McDonald’s.
The implosion, which was cheered by thousands of spectators eager to witness a few seconds of American history, held special meaning for the families of two credit-union employees still buried under the tons of rubble.
The bodies of Virginia Thompson, 56, and Christy Rosas, 22, had to be left in the building when the excavation became too dangerous.
“This is a good day,” Thompson’s son, Philip, told Mayor Ron Norick as they watched from the 15th floor of the vacant Regency Tower apartments.
A third victim, Alvin Justes, a 54-year-old retiree who lived in one of those units, is now also believed to be still entombed somewhere in the credit union. He had not been reported missing until May 10 - three weeks after the blast - when his landlord realized he had failed to pay his rent.
Despite a warning siren, the collapse was sudden and surprisingly violent, physically jolting many in the crowd, which had been kept behind a two-block security perimeter. The east end of the building went first, followed by the west side, then the elevator shaft keeled over from the south.
Dynamite had been strategically placed in some 220 holes drilled around the building’s base. Steel cables were hooked up inside the structure to help guide its fall. An electronic detonator triggered the charges, which were timed to explode at key intervals over 4.5 seconds.
But this powerful act of finality, which had been delayed since last week to give lawyers for accused bomber Timothy J. McVeigh a chance to survey the damaged structure, did not sit well with Carol Cook, who left her Tulsa home at 3 a.m.
“It was awful,” said Cook, 44.
“You could actually feel the repercussions, which makes me think the bomb itself must have just been indescribable.”