April 7, 1996 in City

What A Difference A Day Makes

Rochelle Hines Associated Press
 

It was a day that started like so many others - and then a bomb shattered the ordinariness, taking the lives of 168 mothers, fathers, sons and daughters. One year later, here are the stories of some of the people changed by the blast:

For better or for worse, Edye Smith has grieved in the eyes of the public. When reporters seek comment from a victim’s family member, they often turn to Smith, who lost both her young sons in the April 19, 1995, bombing.

“I’ve received a lot of criticism from other bombing victims for doing a lot of interviews and sharing my feelings,” she says.

But as uncomfortable as some people may be with it, she says, the talking has ensured one thing: “Most people know the Smith boys and how they were killed.”

It is important to her that people know her sons were “rambunctious and full of life,” that 3-year-old Chase opened doors for women and that 2-year-old Colton was just learning to talk.

And as terrible as things have been, some good has come into her life. She and her ex-husband have reconciled, and after a doctor in Texas reversed her tubal ligation at no charge, they began trying for another child in September.

Colton and Chase Smith were buried together. “Most of all, I’m glad they died together,” Smith says. “I believe they’re in heaven.”

Jannie Coverdale remembers leaving her office to get something to wash down a vitamin. And then the bomb went off. Then came the evacuation - and the realization that the thick black smoke she saw was billowing from the day-care center, where she’d left grandsons Aaron, 5, and Elijah, 2, just moments before. And then the waiting at First Christian Church, praying for the divine intervention that never came.

“It’s like a movie, and it plays over and over and over,” she says from her apartment in the Regency Tower, which was heavily damaged in the blast. Next to her is a display case filled with every kind of angel imaginable, many sent by people who just wanted her to know they care.

Coverdale still believes in God, and therein lies the root of her anger. “When I found out that they were dead,” she says of her grandsons, “I got very angry at God because it was like he wasn’t around anywhere and he didn’t hear me.”

But she seems to reserve the greatest amount of anger for herself, for not staying home that day. She had tossed and turned the night before the bombing, and struggled that morning with whether to call in sick. “One night, I got their picture out and I kept telling them how sorry I was for taking them up there and how much I missed them,” she says. “I’m not the type of person to just take off to be taking off. But if I had to do all over again, to hell with that job.”

Daina Bradley Bruce was one of the last people taken out of the building alive. Left behind were the bodies of her two children and her mother - and her right leg, amputated so she could be pulled from the unstable structure.

Bruce was so deep inside the building, where she had gone to get a Social Security card for her 4-month-old son, that it took 90 minutes just to lower a blanket and some oxygen to her.

Older than her 21 years, Bruce spent a lot of years rebelling against her mother and her circumstances. “I was 16 years old and I wanted to run and be free, and I had a child,” she says. “Now I regret a lot of that running, because my little girl, I didn’t get to do much with her.”

About a year ago, Bruce had decided she “just didn’t want to fight anymore” and worked on improving her relationship with her family. Now, she works on improving her mobility with her new artificial limb, and she looks to a future filled with college courses, a new husband - high school sweetheart Gabe - and a child. She plans to attend the ceremony on the bombing’s anniversary - if the new baby doesn’t interfere. It is due April 20.

As Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper Charles Hanger sees it, stopping the 1977 Mercury Marquis headed north on I-35 was just part of his daily routine.

It was about 10:30 a.m. on April 19 when Hanger noticed the yellow vehicle was missing a license plate. And as the driver reached for his wallet, the veteran trooper detected a bulge under the left side of his jacket.

Seconds later, Hanger had his gun pointed at the head of Timothy McVeigh, who was arrested on traffic and weapons charges. Two days later, just as he was about to be released, federal agents realized McVeigh might be the man who planted the bomb in the Ryder rental truck.

Since then, Hanger has likened his notoriety to an emotional “roller coaster.” “I just had more attention brought to me that I ever would have imagined,” he says.

That attention has included awards, accolades and labels like “hero.” Hanger recently received the Trooper of the Year Award for Heroism by the Oklahoma Highway Users Federation, and he also got an award from the International Association of Chiefs of Police.

But he doesn’t see himself as a hero - just “the same guy I was when this all started.”

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