Omar L. Gallaga is an administration reporter for The Okahoma Daily,
the campus newspaper for the University of Oklahoma. He has been on
staff for two years and will serve as managing editor next fall. This is
his account of his fourth day helping to cover the bombing in downtown
Part of an ongoing series!
12-2:30 a.m. --- day 5 --- April 23, 1995
Today was much easier. Despite the lack of sleep I continue to
suffer from, the drain of energy, both physical and emotional of
keeping a quick pace and my own need to do everything and handle it
all, I feel good. I feel peppy. Life is good.
I knew Saturday night that when I went to bed at 4 a.m., I was
going to have to get up to be in town at 10 a.m. I didn't know how I
was going to do it, so I just went to bed and figured if nothing else,
I'd call Joy and tell her I just couldn't do it. My body had frozen
up and was going to be uncooperative and she'd better send someone
else before I collapsed and end up suing the newspaper or something.
Yes, I was feeling loopy.
The phone calls began at about 9 a.m.. Annette sounded as tired
as I felt. She said she was my photo-buddy and I was to meet
me at 10 a.m.. We both agreed that this was WAY too early. Yeah.
We didn't need to be there. Sure! It could wait till 11:15. Okay.
I felt the need to call Joy and check this with her (don't ask me
why, I have this weird thing with authority...) I couldn't find her
at home or work, so I went back to sleep.
I began to get paged by Joy and Annette. Annette said it would be
Tom meeting me downtown, not her, and Joy told me Rudolf was down
there (he'd been since 3 a.m., I think, when there was a chance
they'd be bringing out bodies) and he was overloading on information
and needed help.
Somehow, I got up, and started getting dressed.
I don't know why I was so excited, or so full of energy all of a
sudden. I was driving like a maniac and completely into going down
there. Maybe it was the cute Chinese reporter from L.A. Maybe it
was the fact that Clinton would be in town. Maybe it was Pearl Jam's
Vitalogy blasting from my car stereo.
I was a little lost getting downtown because I was coming east
from Midwest City instead of south from Norman which just turned my
bearings to hell.
There weren't many cars. The weather was much better than the day
before. Cool, but not freezing and no rain.
Traffic wasn't nearly as bad as I'd expected, this being the day
of the big memorial service downtown. It was getting close to 11
p.m. -- I had taken a little too long getting ready at home.
There were more people walking the streets and just moving around
than I'd seen before. I didn't have much trouble finding parking,
but I was pretty far away. I walked it and got to Press Town.
I waited a few minutes for Tom and he arrived pretty soon.
We wandered around looking for Rudolf. When we couldn't find him,
we called Joy and found out he and Anita had probably already left
for the Clinton press conference where security would be tight and
only one photographer and one reporter from our staff got passes.
We decided to make one more check for them. Joy had said that
Rudolf had been schmoozing with CNN and Channel 4 and getting some
of their sources. She suggested we maybe try asking the CNN people
if they'd seen him.
I thought, "Excuse me, Mr. Blitzer? Have you seen Rudolf?"
Not many people were broadcasting live on the police line
facing the building anymore. Someone (probably CNN) had set up
a huge platform with a canopy.
We found the CNN van and asked around, but no one had seen
him. We didn't figure they'd know.
There were some suits walking around and reporters were beginning
to crowd them. I got close to one of them, who turned out to be the
national administrator for the General Services Administration,
whose regional office had been housed in the Alfred Murrah on one
of the lower floors.
Channel 4 was getting ready to go live with him near their little
boy scout tent which housed a monitor and their video equipment.
I was standing right behind and between the administrator and
Channel 4's guy. They went live and the questions began. He said
he was in town from Washington to see the damage for himself and
visit with victims from his department. Channel 4 guy only got to
ask one question before other reporters who'd gathered around started
in on him.
The man was very pleasant and answered all the questions except
those he didn't know the answers to. I stuck around after some of
the other reporters got bored and left.
He kept going and gave me numbers deceased, numbers missing (one
and one) and the number in the hospital (three) as well as how many
had been released.
I walked off with Tom and was talking about what I got when Tom
asked, "How many people work there total?" SHIT!
I ran back and he was doing a live feed with another station.
While I was standing there waiting, I noticed a very attractive
woman who seemed way out of place with all the grubby reporter
types in their sweatshirts, logo-emblazoned plastic jackets which were,
as Tiff would say, one collective fashion faux pas. She was wearing
a sleek black business suit and a tag that identified her as being from
I asked if she knew how many people were in the building. She
said there were about 23 in the department and reran the same numbers
I'd gotten from the administrator. I asked for names of the deceased
"Well, there's the person you should talk to over there -- his
name is Don. He's the building manager." Whoo hoo!
A man stood in a gray suit, holding in his hand a brown cowboy
hat. He was being spoken to by one TV station.
As I closed in, so did a guy from AP and someone from the Tulsa
World. They were all listening to him recount his story -- he'd
been in the elevator when the building blew. He'd crawled out with
another man he found and they carried at least one woman out.
The next day, he'd come back and pointed to the spot he'd been
standing. The fireman said, "Mister, you should not be alive."
Everyone was so intrigued (including me) by the story, that no
one really knew who he was. They kept asking questions about the
I finally said something like, "You're the building manager, sir.
Your name is Don... ?"
"Rogers," he said, politely, smiling at me.
"I understand there were about 23 working in your department. How
many were in the building that day?"
"Oh, about 12-15." He was still smiling.
"Sir, there was one fatality and one unaccounted for. Can you
give me their names?"
He did. I noticed, with no little satisfaction, that AP guy,
Tulsa World guy and others who'd gathered were scribbling
I asked him questions about how long he'd worked in the building.
He said he'd been there at the dedication in 1974. "I took that
building from cradle to the grave," he said. Sweet.
One clever reporter impressed me. Rogers was talking about a
time when he'd broken his pelvis falling from a horse. He mentioned
it because of the irony of being involved in this and only having a
One reporter asked, "What kind of horse was it?"
Turned out to be a quarter-horse.
There were other important details. He knew about 90 percent
of those in the building including all the children. He'd had
to go back in the next day to identify "what they told us were
After Rogers began to repeat information, I started to go off.
He shook my hand and thanked me. Before I left, though, he made
a comment about the press.
"The first night I was out here, I was trying to do my job and
reporters kept stopping and asking me questions."
"Uh oh," I thought.
"And when I told them I was busy, they said okay and left me
alone. I want to tell you, you guys are the greatest. You people
have handled this so well."
I smiled, huge.
One woman from a TV station said, "You don't hear that often!"
I walked off, very, very happy.
I called Joy and told her what happened and there was a huge
din of triumph from the newsroom. We'd be keeping constant contact
with her and out photo editor, Annette, all day.
Nothing much else was going on, so Tom suggested we go to a
shelter where there were lots of bed set up.
It turned out to be Citychurch where indeed there were over a
hundred beds, a full kitchen staff working and, I was told later,
a staff of volunteer chiropractors.
I spoke to the minister who organized much of it and he was
very kind to us. He offered us food, a phone and contact people.
He introduced us to a doctor who'd been in surgery when the
blast happened. He also let us meet a man whose mother was in the
Bob Griffin was a minister. His mother worked in Social Security.
It was sad and harrowing and terrible. They were still waiting
I asked the question that had to be asked. "When did you last
speak to your mother?"
They'd spoken less than a week before. He remembered an Easter
message she'd left on his answering machine asking that he bring
her granddaughter over for dinner.
He remembered Jan. 9. That was the last time she'd seen her
I thanked him profusely. He seemed to be doing well and said it
helped to talk about it. I thanked him again, almost in tears, and
I was going to go use the phone in the kitchen when a firefighter
stopped Tom and I. He asked for a business card. We gave it to
him. "Okay. We'll we're going to send you pictures from inside
Tom and I both stood there, our minds not quite getting it.
Pictures from inside?
I scribbled down Annette's name on a business card and gave it
to him. He said we'd probably get them tomorrow night. We called
Joy quickly and again, the sound of cheering from the newsroom.
On the way out, I thought I'd talk to the chiropractors. I kept
joking with Tom and later, Joy on the phone, about how I was going
to get a chiropractic adjustment while I was here. As it turned
out, that's just what happened.
I was interviewing a chiropractor who'd flown in from San Diego
when he had felt it was his duty to come help. His patients had
financed the flight.
He asked me my medical history and about my stress level. On
a scale from 1 to 10, I said it was about a 7 or 8.
I was lying down on my stomach on a very padded stiff
chiropractic bed with a hole where you'd stick your head and breath
through. I did so.
He ran his hand down my back, checking for something. Maybe
He had me turn on my back and lay my hands on my stomach, then
chest. I had to admit, it was all very relaxing.
I eventually sat up, breathing deeply while he moved my neck
When it was over, he said he was impressed. My nervous system
had responded very quickly. "You must be less stressed out than
you think or be feeling some inner peace."
I thought about the day before when I'd been so happy my writing
had affected someone. I smiled.
I interviewed another chiropractor who told me they'd adjusted
about 500 people, mostly rescue workers and volunteers. I was
impressed. They said they had a second staff at the command post
which was the volunteer home base. (and where no press was allowed)
I left the church relaxed, and feeling very mellow. The adjustment
had done wonders.
There was not much else I could do. I ran into some reporter
people interviewing a rescue worker and his dog, Valorie. I took
a few notes thinking it might be an interesting item for our huge
page 3 testimonials we were running. I found out later on in the
evening that Michelle had interviewed the same worker and she had
already written one.
Tom had gone off while I was getting an adjustment, so I was on
my own. When I did meet up with Tom, we were both getting the
feeling that there was no much else to do. We grabbed some sort
of gulash confection made of beef, macaroni and beans which was
pretty cold, but damned tasty, at the Salvation Army booth. I also
grabbed a Rice Crispies Treat, which I would continue to nibble on
for the rest of the day.
Tom and I went to the edge of the press area, near the CNN post.
He was admiring (insert obvious penis envy joke here) the huge
lens of a guy from the New York Times(!) Tom, who had about four
shots left on his color roll and only a 36 black and white exposure
left, stared, hungrily.
I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but our photographers
have a deal with Knight Ridder Tribune where they take color photos
(we only run black and white) for them and if used, I think, they make
$250 a day. Anita's photo of a family crying under an umbrella
made it on their wire today after Annette sent them photos
Tom was drooling now, the line running down his chin like a
stream. "Maybe, they'll let me pop a roll of film in there in
We called the home office. Joy and Annette both suggested Tom
go get film NOW. Tom decided he might buy some off another photog.
At 3 p.m., Michelle showed up, meeting us at the free phones. It
turned out she had a roll of color in her car.
Michelle was there to relieve me, so we walked to her car, which
was very close by and she gave me a ride to my car, which was not.
In fact, I wasn't sure where it was.
Tom went off with the color roll and Michelle offered me a ride
to my car, not knowing that I was bullshitting about where it was
and had no real idea. "I think it's around 8th and Harvey," I said
trying not to smile. It was on 10th and Hudson, it turned out.
We were listening to the memorial service. Michelle sang along
to Amazing Grace.
I thanked her, hugged her, and went to my own car. I drove to
Midwest City to pick up clothes that hadn't been laundered by the
time I'd had to take off that morning. My wonderful mom was doing
it for me and had assured me it would be done when I came by.
I listened to the service on the way. I lost it when the boy's
choir came on and some DJ said something like, "And it is appropriate
that children, who have played such a large role in this tragedy,
I cried and cried, my eyes puffy, the road ahead blurry. It
was a 15 minute drive and I kept crying the whole way. A minister,
maybe Billy Graham, who knows, spoke and when he got to the part
about how wonderful Oklahomans have been, I cried even harder.
I passed a cop doing maybe 70, but my lights were on and maybe
he just let me go. If he'd stopped me, he would have seen my cheeks
streaked with tears.
I got home and the fam was watching TV. Clinton was about to
come on. If they noticed I'd been crying, they didn't say so.
Most of the laundry was ready and my mom agreed to drop the
rest off later in Norman.
I collected my mail and other things and took off for work.
I listened to the rest of the service, sometimes crying,
sometimes just thinking back to downtown and seeing faces of those
Back at the newsroom, there was buzz aplenty.
Sundays are usually really, really slow, but everyone
seemed to be there. Tables had been moved around a bit. A
television with a VCR had been hooked up to Mas'ood's MacIntosh,
and he was capturing still images from the service.
People complimented me on my khaki/white shirt/tie ensemble. I
was asked if I was going greek anytime soon.
I was frantic to start writing because I had so much to write.
However, things kept coming up and I had a hard time staying on
Mas'ood and I conferenced like we always did. He was talking
to me about the Channel 4 joint site they'd set up. And that's
where it gets confusing.
Earlier in the day, Joy had told me that Rudolf had talked to
Channel 4 and they had wanted to do a joint web site with us with
some of their images.
I had figured if Mas'ood and his people were working on it, it
was fine and I'd leave it alone. I'd had a slightly bitter taste
in my mouth about letting a news channel get in on our action, but
I figured there were probably good reasons for doing it.
I saw it --- it had our logo above the NEWSCHANNEL 4 logo and a
few still images of the memorial service.
Mas'ood, Mark, Angela and I think Mueed (all members of the
vigilant online crew) were in Tiffany's office. We closed the door.
Mas'ood, apparently, hadn't really known what was going on
or why we were doing it. I asked if Channel 4 was compensating us,
sharing information, helping design the page, what?
We called Rudolf into the office. He said they'd been really
nice and had invited he and Anita into their trailer and said they
were really interested in doing this with us.
I'd heard they'd run a spot during their coverage saying that
"their" joint web site was up and ready for people to see.
I asked Mas'ood, "What are we getting out of this? What have
they done for us lately?"
First of all, we don't even LIKE Channel 4. They're easily the
most sensationalist of the local stations, running crap like "Fat
Like Me," in which a reporter dressed up in cheesy-looking latex
to look obese to see who would laugh at her. Yes, people laughed
at her, but not because she was fat. The laughed because she
looked like the off-off-Broadway production of Mrs. Doubtfire with
a makeup meltdown.
Our station of choice is Channel 9, which always seems to have
a good and accurate take on the news.
To think they were capitalizing off us and getting credit for
the web site made me a little nauseous.
We talked some more about it. We figured Channel 4 had seen
the Channel 9 segment on the site and had decided they wanted to
jump on the online bandwagon. So they schmoozed us.
I went on a full rant.
"Well, if they're not going to pay you guys and they're not
doing anything to help us, why the hell are we promoting them? We
should call and ask if they'll pay you guys."
One of the onliners -- "We just want pizza."
"Well, if they're not going to pay you for your hard work and
they're just doing it because we're making history here and they
want to get in on the action, I say we take their logo off. If
they're not going to play ball with us, I say fuck 'em."
They all looked at me. I got a good feeling of "right on."
I was made the point person to call them since I was in full-
About an hour and half later, I got a hold of someone there. Most
were pretty clueless, so eventually I was transferred to the
managing editor. I explained the facts. I maybe was a little
forceful. I asked them if they planned to compensate our guys. I
asked him what exactly we were getting out of this. I told him if
something wasn't arranged, we could easily call CNN or the other
local news stations and ask them if they were interested in being
part of our site.
He told me to hold on. He told me he'd call me back. He hmmm'd
uhhhh'd a lot. He sounded worried.
A few minutes later he called back, sounding very tired.
He told me the way it had come about was someone asked him if
they could do it and Ch. 4 had said yes. "As far as we're concerned,
you guys can do whatever you want with it."
"If you want to go with another station, go ahead."
I stopped for a minute. I hadn't expected that. I was having
such a good time trying to play hardball, I hadn't expected them to
just dismiss us. I felt like ranting. Telling him that we were
making history -- doing the undoable. Racking up over 50,000 hits
Oh well. I hung up.
First of order of business -- we took off the Channel 4 logo and
called Channel 9.
There was some worry about keeping the Channel 4 pictures, but
they had given us permission to use pictures since the first night,
so they couldn't revoke it just because we'd pissed them off. The
Vincent, our graphics god, had worked on setting up a system that
would automatically update pictures from TV every 15 seconds or so
on the web page. There was some concern about the copyright
infringement of using pictures that were part of a continuous stream
or using full continuous video, which we had the ability to do.
"Well, technically, these are just a series of still images, right?"
"So, technically, we're just using still images from Channel 9 and 4,
which they've given us permission to use." Vincent smiled.
One thing I thought was funny was that Channel 4 had posted our
web page address. I thought it would be hilarious if people had
seen it, logged on to our web site, and saw the big Channel 9 logo
As it turned out, Channel 9 didn't get back in touch with us
about it, so we began to figure we should just not worry about it
and just make the page our own.
I was writing quickly, working on a story about church volunteers
and four testimonials. The church story came out a little choppy
because I'd lost a few notes I'd taken and couldn't recover them.
I'd searched the newsroom frantically and never found them.
The testimonials were a little better. In fact, when I finished
I felt they were about the best things I'd written about the
I ordered the pizza for Mas'ood and crew Channel 4 had been too
dickish to pay for. It arrived and we all ate.
My parents came by with a bunch of 2-liter drinks and my clothes.
Everyone thanked them profusely and they left quickly, knowing how
much work I had to do.
Tom came back from downtown. He'd brought back color photos
that he'd taken with the telephoto lens of a guy from the Dallas
Morning News. Fantastic.
They were incredibly close shots where you could see individual
workers in the building.
The testimonials were coming out quickly and Joy was loving
We settled in at the backshop and Michelle and I helped edit.
We spend a full half hour editing the testimonials page, making
sure our stories sang.
We had a midnight deadline and some of the pages hadn't been
clocked on time. The testimonials page was clocked at exactly
midnight, but everything else was just a few minutes late.
Most of us hung out for a while after.
We waited for the page negatives to come out and hung out
near the press for a bit. Joy, Michelle, Tiffany, Lori and I
talked about what would happen the coming week. I told them I
was pretty much free from classes -- my Modern American Women
professor said I had two quizzes, but could make them up with
a paper if I missed class Monday night and Jack, of course,
wouldn't mind if I missed class for going downtown. (at least,
that's what I hoped.) He'd told me that this was the best
learning we could possibly get.
I finally left, knowing I had a full night of writing ahead
of me. I needed to convert Day 3 to html for my home page, edit
and email Day 4 and write Day 5.
As it turned out, none of that happened. I fell asleep while
taking a lie-down break halfway through writing day 5. The
rest would have to be written tomorrow.
Two of the testinonials I wrote for Monday's paper:
She was telling the rescuers she didn't want her leg cut off.
Rescuers needed to work quickly. The building cold give at
"The slab was so big. There was no way to get that slab off
her leg without huge machinery."
And so, the decision was made.
Choctaw dentist Roger Bryant and other rescuers worked to
amputate the leg of Dana Bradley. Bryant helped evacuate
Bradley, giving her oxygen and keeping her warm with a blanket.
Bryant talks of Bradley and can almost smile when he says
she will recover from her injuries, which include a severed
leg, broken arm and broken ribs.
Still, he remembers.
"She didn't want it taken off. The slab was so big..."
Don Rogers, 54, lost a loved one unlisted in any catalog of
victims killed by the Wednesday Oklahoma City blast. The Alfred
Murrah Federal Building.
Rogers is the building manager. Hw was an electrician for the
Murrah building when he attended its dedication in 1974.
"I took that buiding from cradle to the grave," he said.
Rogers was in an open elevator on the first floor when the
building exploded. he said it was spoky and dark in the building.
He couldn't see anything.
"I reached for the man next to me and we moved toward what I
thought was an exit."
The two crawled over debris together and found a woman in a
hallway screaming. Rogers carried her out.
The next day, he returned to help identify bodies of
co-workers. Of the 23 or so employees in the General Services
Administration, Rogers' office, all were accounted for but one,
Three GSA employees remain hospitalized, and four or five
hve been released with minor injuries, Rogers said.
Seeing the wreckage again filled Rogers with horror. "There
was no way we could identify anything. It was a horrible sight
to see what we were told were bodies."
Rogers spoke to a firefighter, pointing to a spot where he'd
stood the day before.
The rescuer was amazed.
"He told me 'you should not be alive.'"
Copyright ©1995-2001 by Omar L. Gallaga