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Survivor recalls Oklahoma bombing


Flowers rest on Baylee Almon's memorial chair in the Field of Empty Chairs at the Oklahoma City National Memorial on Monday. Today would have been her 11th birthday. 
 (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Flowers rest on Baylee Almon's memorial chair in the Field of Empty Chairs at the Oklahoma City National Memorial on Monday. Today would have been her 11th birthday. (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Richard Green Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY – Jenny Parsley’s decision to go in late to work on April 19, 1995, kept her out of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building when a truck bomb blew off the north side of the structure, killing 168 people and injuring hundreds more.

Parsley, who seldom visits the memorial on the grounds of the destroyed building, was to be one of the visitors today for the observance of the 10th anniversary of the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.

Vice President Dick Cheney and former President Bill Clinton also are scheduled to speak at the ceremony, and yellow ribbons are being placed on chairs at the bombing site to honor each of the victims.

“I knew most of the people killed,” Parsley said. “I lost a lot of good friends, too many.”

She worked in the Housing and Urban Development office, which lost 35 people in the blast.

“My workday began at 7 a.m. and I had a doctor’s appointment at 10 a.m., so I could have worked for almost three hours, but for some reason I decided to go in after my appointment,” she said. “I got up early that morning and got dressed and got ready to go to work and just decided not to go.”

Timothy McVeigh’s fertilizer and fuel-oil bomb went off at 9:02 a.m.

Parsley was driving her car and noticed thick black smoke over downtown. She thought it was a fire at a tire plant until she turned on the radio and heard that it was the federal building.

She drove to her husband’s office. Her college-age son was there, and he and his father thought she was in the building when the bomb exploded.

“They were crying,” she said. “When I got there, I just fell apart.”

Parsley and fellow employees returned to work at a different building in Oklahoma City. When the new federal building was dedicated last year, kitty-corner to the bombing site, Parsley, 57, took early retirement.

Jon Hansen, who was an assistant fire chief at the time of the bombing, was preparing for a meeting at a fire station five blocks west of the federal building when the blast went off.

“We drove toward the building and I’ll never forget how when we topped the hill with the sun low in the east, the street and sidewalks just glistened with broken glass.”

Joseph Allbaugh, former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was chief of staff for then-Texas Gov. George Bush during the Oklahoma City bombing. Allbaugh, a Blackwell native who lived and worked in Oklahoma City for 17 years, said he lost a lot of friends in the bombing.

“Yes, it was a terrible day,” Allbaugh said. “We will always celebrate those 168 lives and you’ll be glad to know the city and the state have rebounded. Tomorrow is a day we memorialize again and then we move on. Life does go on.”

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