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

Oklahoma City.


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.

In town

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

the GSA.

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

and missing.

"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.

More hospitality

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

went off.

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

the building."

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

around slightly.

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.

Back home

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

electronically yesterday.

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

between theirs."

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,

are singing."

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

I'd met.

Getting screwed over

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-

outrage mode.

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

a day!

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

images stayed.

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?"

Vincent nods.

"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:

Dr. Roger Bryant


She was telling the rescuers she didn't want her leg cut off.

Rescuers needed to work quickly. The building cold give at

any moment.

"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

Building Manager

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,

Michael Loudenslager.

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.'"


<== Day 4 | Day 6 ==>

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Copyright ©1995-2001 by Omar L. Gallaga