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Oklahoma City Bombing 1995

 

On April 19, 1995, around 9:03 a.m., just after parents dropped their children off at day care at the Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, the worst act of domestic terrorism that this country has ever witnessed to date occurred. A massive bomb inside a rental truck exploded, blowing half of the nine-story building into oblivion.

Stunned Americans watched as the bodies of men, women, and children were pulled from the rubble for nearly two weeks. When the smoke cleared and the exhausted and emotionally devastated rescue workers packed up their gear and left, 168 people were dead in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil to date.

FEMA deployed eleven Urban Search and Rescue Teams consisting of more than 600 Task Force and Incident Support Team personnel. The rescue and recovery operations continued for 14 days. The eleven teams came from across the country; Phoenix, AZ, Virginia Beach, VA, New York, NY, Montgomery County, MD, Fairfax County, VA, Miami-Dade County, FL, Puget Sound, WA, and Sacramento, Orange County, Menlo Park and Los Angeles County, CA.

DART sent 10 of its members to Oklahoma City with CaTF-3.

At that point in history, the response to the bombing was the longest continuous Urban Search and Rescue operation in the history of FEMA. There were 26 operational periods of 12 hours each (In contrast the Northridge earthquake required only 3 operational periods of 12 hours each.)

The Urban Search and Rescue teams recovered 165 victims (There were 168 victims total, 3 were recovered following demolition).

Chief Robert J. Dolci wrote the following poem on the sixth day of CaTF-3's ten-day mission to Oklahoma City. It provides an emotional picture of what the team was faced with.

Hope & Horror in the Heartland

At first it was hope that gave us the energy to dig through the rubble.
Rubble three stories high.
Hope fueled by anger pushed us beyond exhaustion.
We found one, then another, and another, life long since gone.
Our anger masked the horror in our mind and the ache in our hearts.

Who would find the children?
Would it be us?
We hoped so, we hoped not.
The children would bring the tears.
The tears that we tell each other it's okay to shed; a tear or two that we may shed at night.
The real tears that we must control for fear that we will not be able to do our job.

Some say we are brave; others call us heroes.
We feel neither.
When we work the rubble or work the upper floors on ropes to remove the widow makers we feel no fear.
At least not personal fear for ourselves, just fear of failure.
There's a strange darkness in our mind that controls the fear.

We're trained to save lives. We will willingly risk our life to do so.

As the days pass we lose hope.
Reality tells us that there are no lives left to save.
All we can do now is provide comfort for the family and friends of the victims.
It is good that we do this.
But, it does not provide hope.

Some of us welcome the exhaustion.
Exhaustion controls the emotions; it surrounds it like the blackness that fills our dreamless nights.
The dreams will come.
Maybe when we are back home.
We hope not until then.

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Click on an image to see an enlarged view./P>

DART personnel at Menlo Park Fire Station 77 helping to get CaTF-3 ready to deploy to Oklahoma. (32,763 bytes) Member of DART weighing equipment cache. (25,883 bytes) Preparing to load equipment cache. (38,751 bytes) Five DART Team members preparing to leave Station 77. (23,787 bytes) Seven DART Team members preparing to leave Travis Air Force Base. (17,012 bytes)
CaTF-3 waiting to depart Travis on C-141. (20,526 bytes) Team boarding C-141. (20,176 bytes) Team boarding C-141. (30,424 bytes) Bob and Mark on C-141 in route to Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. (31,183 bytes) The team on C-141 in route to Tinker Air Force Base. (38,457 bytes)
The team on C-141 in route to Tinker Air Force Base. (40,851 bytes) Chief Dolci glad to be in route to Oklahoma. (42,209 bytes) What it looked like before we arrived on scene. (252,485 bytes) Condition of building the night the team arrived. (36,872 bytes) Flag being removed from debris first night we arrived. (57,507 bytes)
Condition of building the night the team arrived. (38,133 bytes) Members of DART preparing to go to work the morning of the first day. (152,349 bytes) Removing dribs from what use to be the childcare center. (44,716 bytes) Cutting rebar's to remove overhanging concrete slabs. (40,830 bytes) Cutting rebar's to remove overhanging concrete slabs. (40,578 bytes)
Passing crane cable through hole in slab. (43,113 bytes) Team member traversing windowsill on 7th floor to get to East side of building. (36,885 bytes) Core drilling concrete slab on 6th floor. (36,899 bytes) Erecting ladder gin to core hole in overhanging concrete slab. (33,512 bytes) Working off of ladder gin to core slab. (632,583 bytes)
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Bob Garder, Mike Disanto and Phil Snyder on the evening of the third day. (64,751 bytes) Core drilling concrete slab on 6th floor. (25,802 bytes) Debris removal on upper floors. (28,086 bytes) Overall view of Murrah Federal building. (27,517 bytes) Mike Disanto taking a break. (28,802 bytes)
Cutting rebar with torch. (26,613 bytes) Removing debris from mechanical equipment room. (15,364 bytes) Select debris removal from canyon area. (34,224 bytes) Mike Disanto posing - again. (23,777 bytes) Tom Timbal  -- Note how the floors are clear of debris and overhanging slabs. (20,901 bytes)
From the bottom looking up. (38,992 bytes) Overhanging slab being removed by crane. (38,984 bytes) Team member hanging from rope system core drilling slab. (25,680 bytes) Team member hanging from rope system core drilling slab. (31,297 bytes) Team member hanging from rope system core drilling slab. (23,471 bytes)
Oklahoma firefighters removing debris from Lower floors stacked up to the third floor. (36,161 bytes) Select debris removal from the 4th floor. (39,347 bytes) Crane removing floor slab. (38,775 bytes) Team members searching for bodies on 8th floor. (36,693 bytes)
Erecting traversing rope system on the 8th floor. (38,908 bytes) Building across the street from the Murrah Federal building. (45,706 bytes) Building one block away. (34,312 bytes) Buildings several blocks away. (28,737 bytes) Steel Shores. (28,339 bytes)
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Steel Shores. (32,668 bytes) Steel Shores supporting weak column. (39,213 bytes) Oklahoma firefighters removing debris from the View with much of the floor debris and overhanging slabs removed. (41,601 bytes) Oklahoma City firefighters preparing to go to work. (48,541 bytes)
Big dumpster being used to remove debris from upper floors. (37,539 bytes) Debris on upper floors. (32,387 bytes) Wood shores supporting the 3rd floor. (35,203 bytes) Working in the hole. (40,207 bytes) Wood shore supporting 3rd floor. (39,265 bytes)
Torch inadvertently started a firer. (34,434 bytes) Ryder truck. (44,167 bytes) ATF, FEMA, Police, DEA working together in the area that was once the childcare center. (38,102 bytes) ATF, FEMA, Police, DEA working together in the area that was once the childcare center. (42,884 bytes) Picture from the top down. (44,542 bytes)
What the building looked like on the 11th day. (46,229 bytes) Ground level operations. (30,922 bytes) Team members preparing to go to work. (29,615 bytes) Picture taken at the end of the day our last day in the building. (40,878 bytes) Picture taken at the end of the day our last day in the building. (43,048 bytes)
Picture taken at the end of the day our last day in the building. (42,837 bytes) Picture taken the morning of our last day in the building. (45,674 bytes) The convention center where we ate breakfast and dinner. (29,402 bytes) Flag ceremony on our last day in the building. (37,643 bytes) Phil Snyder taking a break. (38,188 bytes)
Media camp. (33,393 bytes) The people of Oklahoma City were great! (25,650 bytes) Sorry Ben!!  I just had to. (23,237 bytes) R and R the day before we returned home. (17,743 bytes) R and R the day before we returned home. (25,026 bytes)
R and R the day before we returned home. (25,207 bytes) Preparing cache to leave. (41,284 bytes) Preparing cache to leave. (43,797 bytes)    

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