Omar L. Gallaga is an administration reporter for The Oklahoma 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 sixth day helping

to cover the bombing in downtown Oklahoma City.


Part of an ongoing series!

3 a.m.?. --- day 6 --- April 24, 1995

The latest news

News is interesting.

Hmm. I don't like that lead. It's a bit like saying "Sex is

good." What Joy would call "A no-shitter."

News is funny, in a way. That's maybe better.

News is strange? Well, good news is.

News is more like a sponge that seems so full of water one day

then completely dries up the next.

That one, for the purposes of today, will probably work.

Tonight was the first night I got out of the newsroom before

midnight since last Tuesday. It was almost sad in a way. I felt

incomplete -- like a mere mortal again, leaving before the copy

editors had gone home.

In fact, now that I remember, I'd promised Lori (our night

editor) that I would stick around 'till late to pay her back for

taking my place downtown early this morning, so I could get some

sleep. Whoops. I completely forgot. I suppose I'll be catching

hell about it tomorrow.

Today was also the first day we didn't have a midnight deadline.

It went back to 10:30 p.m. like it usually is. Normalcy was

returning. In a memo to her reporters, Joy said that we were going

to have to start covering local (Norman) stuff again. It was a

huge letdown after the events of the week before.

Of course, we would have reporters downtown this week and keep

up on the story, but the huge teams and scrambling probably wasn't

going to happen anymore. The story was drying out, even this close

to the scene and this soon after. It was a torn up building. More

bodies being taken out. How much were we going to be able to

say until the stories started sounding the same, the survivor and

fatality stories mixing together in our minds like haunting music,

remembered at some times, forgotten the rest?

I realize, reluctantly, that the news only lasts so long. Sooner

or later, we have to move on, to go somewhere else. The biggest

story of my career, and all of a sudden I'm learning that it will

be over soon. We only have a week or two left of publishing before

we break for intercession. After that, a paper won't come out until

late May/early July. That bothers me to no end.

I'll be going to the Tulsa World and working with people I saw

downtown this week, some good, others... Well, I won't go into it.

Let me just say I heard the competition for stories got ruthless and

they aren't exactly the happiest of staffs like, say, we are.

The sponge is drying. The story is ending. We'll move on. Then

what will I do?

The sleep gods come

When I crashed last night, it was because I was writing Day 5

as email to myself, which I would then buffer capture, edit using

DOSedit on my computer, then upload as ASCII text, which I would

email, then convert to html to put on my home page. Trust me,

it's the easiest way. I think.

Anyway, I had gone to take a little lie-down break and when I

came back, I was logged off because I'd been inactive for so

long. I must have fallen asleep longer than I thought.

I screen-captured what I had and went to bed. Screw it, I

thought. I'll write it tomorrow. I hesitated for a minute. I

had written them all the night they happened. I was worried I'd

forget details and the accounts would suffer.

I still worry about that.

I decided to go to bed anyway. I was just too tired.

I made sure my alarm was completely off and didn't see

consciousness again until after 11 a.m.

Joy called, waking me up to say I was on afternoon downtown

duty. Lori and Michelle were downtown and I was to come to the

newsroom about 12:30.

I got up and continued on Day 5, getting about halfway through

the day. I was running late, trying to get dressed, get finished

and go to the newsroom.

I printed out what I had of Day 5 and Day 4 so I could edit if

I had time at work.

I drove quickly, but still didn't make it to the newsroom until

about 12:50.

Joy gave me a look. "Omar, you're 25 minutes late. That bothers


I felt bad. I'd gotten nine hours of sleep. I had no right to

be late.

Anita was waiting for me. "She's been waiting since 11:30,"

Joy said.

Well, that one wasn't my fault. They'd known I wouldn't be there

'till 12:30. Still, I felt bad. I remembered I promised Anita we

would go out to lunch together at 12:30.

She gave me a look from across the room. Joy shot me a look

from halfway across the room that said, "Did you just catch the

look Anita gave you?"

I nodded. It said, "Yes, yes, I know."

I decided to get verbal with these people and approached Anita.

"I knew we wouldn't eat lunch together," she said, before I'd even

reached her.

I stopped a bit, approaching the situation, and the woman,

carefully. "I know. I'm really sorry. We need to head downtown.

Do you want to grab something on the way?"

She stopped looking at the newspaper and looked at me. She

seemed pissed.


We were arguing back and forth about whether we should take

two cars. Finally, she agreed to ride with me, but we'd have to

pick up an auto part she needed on the way.

I kept getting delayed. Mas'ood and I hooked up to chat about

the web site a bit more. They were talking with Vincent about

doing the video feed, but with alternating channels. Kind of a

"best of TV," sort of thing.

Mueed was working today to get the Monday paper online.

Jack gave us copies of today's paper, which had already run out

in all the journalism paper racks.

I spoke to Jack about class. He said they'd just discussed

bombing coverage, and that I shouldn't worry too much. Jack rules.

A guy from the Oklahoman showed up. He was from the Norman

bureau (actually, he WAS the Norman bureau) and wanted a copy of

our Friday with the article about Trudy, the OU student killed in

the explosion.

I copied for him and as he walked, he said he read my stuff all

the time. That pleased me. What pleased me more was the news tip

he gave me.

Larry Medina, who is Director of Hispanic American Student

Association (of which I am an on-again, off-again member) is a

member of the Air National Guard and has, as such, been downtown

through most of this. He gave the Oklahoman guy a guided golf-

cart tour near the blast area. The Oklahoman guy got to take a

picture of an American flag with the words "We will be back,"

spray painted next to it. It was awesome.

He told me that Medina has seen everything and that it will

be a hell of a feature when he comes home. He told me he got

Larry's pager number from his wife.

I thanked him and tried calling. Their message tape on the

answering machine. The people in his office said there was no

way in hell they were going to give me his pager number. Sigh.

I decided to try his house later or call his wife at another


Anita and I finally left the newsroom and headed downtown.

Back in the fray

We stopped at Auto Zone and got her part. We went to

Hardee's in Moore to get food. We ate, with surprisingly

little mess on the road.

Anita was in a bad mood. She hadn't brought her rain gear

and there were dark clouds. She had worked about 21 hours

straight the day before along with Rudolf and she was getting


Rudolf, blessedly, had gotten the day off. He'd worked so

hard, he needed it and more. He came in later this evening, though.

You just can't keep them at home.

Anita, who'd busted her ass too, wouldn't have taken

a day off if someone tried to force her to.

We made it downtown with little fuss, getting pretty close to

Press Town.

As soon as we got there, we paged Lori to meet up with her and

Michelle. We called Joy to check in. There'd been tons of traffic

on the way, so we'd gotten there late, almost 3 p.m.

We were going to have to be back around 5-5:30 because I had

a 6 p.m. deadline.

Anita was a little upset because of how little time we had. She'd

warmed up a bit on the way, though, when we talked about how much

work we'd done and how awesome the staff had been. When I began

to bitch about how hard it's been to do all my normal stuff and try

to write about it all at the end of the day, she tried to cheer me


The first thing I saw in Press Town was a firefighter holding

up a crayon drawing sent to him by a child. It read, "Thank you -

I'll be watching you on TV!"

Anita and I roamed around and we ran into a K-9 unit. A guy

and his gorgeous German shepherd were talking to some other

reporters. Anita took pictures, then started stroking the dog's

fur while I asked questions.

He said the rescue dogs were fatigued because they were working

12-hour shifts and dogs normally spend about 70 percent of their

lives asleep. To top it off, the dog had an upset stomach. He said

he was going to go give Gunny (the dog) some Pepto Bismol.

One of the people interviewing him was a reporter from the OSU


Normally, we hate the O'Collegian. We don't think their paper

is terribly good and since we hate OSU anyway, it's a good target.

Their reporters (two we met) were very nice. Also, they didn't

like their editors, who had underplayed the bombing to the point of


We let our guard down when they told us how well we were covering

the bombing.

The reporter asked if we knew about the Muslim funeral. She said

a Muslim woman had had people knocking on her door harassing her and

the stress caused her to have a miscarriage. The reporter gave us

an address where the funeral for the stillborn baby would be. She

said a press conference with Muslim officials was going to happen


I rushed to a phone to tell Joy, who was not at all impressed.

"We already knew about the Muslim woman. It was in the Oklahoman."

I asked if we were sending someone to the funeral. "No," Joy

said, but told me I could cover the press conference. Okay.

I ended up explaining to Anita that it wasn't that big a deal

even though my gut told me it was. It may have been that I had

been in such close contact with Mas'ood and had been there when

there was a lot of worry about Muslim students being harassed earlier

in the week.

I remembered how there had been a move to keep Muslim student

files under lock and key if the FBI decided to try to seize the

records from OU.

A few minutes later, the press conference began. A huge crowd

of reporters gathered and I was lucky enough to get right near

the front, crouching on the ground with people all around me,

microphones shoved forward and cameras bumping.

The people there were a spokesman from a national Muslim

association, a lawyer for the Oklahoma Muslim Association, the

Middle Eastern man who'd been arrested at Heathrow airport and

the husband of the woman who'd had the miscarriage.

It was hard to hear them, but I was lucky to be close enough.

I was having a hard time crouching. My feet were falling asleep

and cramping badly. I kept fidgeting while I scribbled notes,

worried that I was pissing off the reporters around me with my

movement. When I could take the pain no more, I stood up, then

a few minutes later, crouched again. I wondered if I would end

up on some news broadcast, popping up and down like a journalistic


The second time I stood up, I was crowded by a short Asian

woman who'd miraculously managed to get herself completely into

the circle. She wore mostly black and a bright red OU hat.

I had seen her around before. I thought she was from the

Oklahoman. At this point, I didn't care if she was from the

New York Times. I was pissed off that she was crowding me

and shoving her elbow into me where I could barely write. She

had her arm sticking out with a tape recorder.

She seemed like a pro. I didn't feel like one.

I'd forgotten my tape recorder and was taking notes quickly,

probably missing a few details, but getting most of it pretty


There were some good quotes and I figured this would be a

story. The husband told the whole story with his wife. The

Heathrow guy said he'd been humiliated and treated like dirt.

The lawyer said Muslim leaders had been excluded from the prayer


After the press conference, I spoke individually to the lawyer,

the Heathrow guy and, through a translator, the husband.

I noticed the husband sitting off by himself later, waiting on

a nearby curb. I had been one of the few to actually shake his

hand and express sympathy. I wondered if the stereotypes they'd

just spoken about extended into every realm, even this one.

I caught up with the reporter who'd elbowed me. I had to know

where she was from.

I asked her. "I'm from New York." Okay.

"What paper do you write for?"

"The Times."

"The NEW YORK Times?"



I started asking questions and I may have been gushing. She

said she'd worked there three years and was a city reporter in

Queens. Somehow, the conversation got to Columbia, where I was

thinking about attending grad school. She told me she'd gone there

and I should go.

I asked her about the OU hat. She joked that looking like the

local press made people more apt the talk to her. The real reason,

though, was that she needed a hat and had bought one at Target. It

seemed so strange to me -- someone from the Times shopping at an

Oklahoma Target.

She gave me her home phone number and told me to call her if I

was ever in New York, we'd go have coffee. Wow.

She got on her cellular, met up with her photographer and walked

off. I was still basking in her glow. I think Anita told me we

needed to start leaving, but my memory gets cloudy there.

We said goodbye to the O'Collegian people and I was writing

down my email, world wide web page and other info on the back of

a Daily business card. We tracked down the Times reporter and I

gave it to her. She said they didn't have email, but kept the

card. We chatted with her a little longer. I told her

it would be at least two years before I got to Columbia. She

invited me again to call her. "I'll still be there," she said.

More glow.

We ran into her one more time on our way out of Press Town

and her photographer was nice enough to let Anita use his wide-

angle lens to get a view of the whole press/building scene.

We left Press Town and on the way, Anita spotted a good shot.

An American flag as the background to a sign that read, "Keep

Out," on a condemned building. As she was taking the picture,

I remembered that this was where I'd interviewed Mario, who'd been

blown out of bed and had gone out to help people the morning of

the bombing.

Mario's mom, Yolanda, invited us upstairs. They were moving

their beds out. The building had been declared unlivable, so they

were going to live temporarily on a farm they owned.

I found out Mario is a sculptor, and a good one from what I could

see. None of his sculptures were broken.

They were very nice to us and invited us to come to the

roof and see the view from up there. It was incredible. What was

more incredible was the top floor where plaster lay, walls looked

crumbled and destruction just seemed so... out of place. This

is not Beirut. It's Oklahoma City. This is not a construction

site. This is a home.

We were running really late, so we left. Anita still had to

take pictures of FEMA (Federal Emergency Medical Agency, I think)

for a feature Michelle was working on. I circled around the

Myriad Arena while Anita went inside to call Joy and get pictures.

When she came back, she said she wasn't able to get in at FEMA,

or a photo of the chiropractic team across from the Myriad.

We headed back with my Mambo Kings soundtrack. (Yes, I bought it

just for "Beautiful Maria of My Soul," but can you blame me? Plus,

the other tracks have grown on me.) Our collective butts mamboed

as well as they could on my car seats most of the way home until

Anita fell asleep and my own eyes grew heavy behind the wheel.

We got back close to six, so I knew I would miss deadline. I

wrote as fast I could, but I kept getting sidetracked by web stuff.

Joy and I decided I would write a Muslim press conference story,

work on an update on rescue work and maybe do two accounts if


I did the Muslim thing first and let Mas'ood read it when I was

done just to get see if he could spot any mistakes since he was

following the story much closer than I had been.

While I was writing, Nick Jungman, our former editor who is

at the St. Petersburg paper, called to talk about my accounts that

I'd been emailing semi-regularly.

He said he was impressed (I think that's what he said, I was

half-distracted working on my stories) and that I should submit

them as exerpts for Esquire or Harper's. I was flattered and

told him I was thinking maybe a book (there I go again). He

sounded more excited and said that I could have Esquire or

someone exerpt it FROM the book. It still seemed surreal.

I told Nick I'd call him back. It's 2 a.m. now, and I

think I should let him sleep. I'm sorry Nick. I'll call tomorrow


The Muslim story was a little difficult to write because it

was a press conference and I needed to make it sound not-so-staged.

I went into detail about the wife and about the Heathrow incident

using quite a few quotes.

The rescue story turned out to be nowhere near as good as what

AP had, so we decided to include some facts I'd gotten into the AP

and pretty much leave the rest alone. We wanted to add enough to

put "From staff and wire reports," but it didn't happen. AP won

that one.

I didn't do any accounts because we didn't really need them.

I plan to write them up tomorrow if we decide to do it again.

All told, I finished up about 9 p.m. with some side trips to

update my home page with the first two of these records.

I also spotted The Edmond Evening Sun's home page on the Web.

I was shocked. It read, "Oklahoma's First WWW News Service!"

I immediately got Mas'ood. We were both mad.

I decided to call and speak to someone posing as a random OU

student (Mas'ood said, "random computer geek"). I never got a

live person, so I left a message in a lisping drawl. "I do a lot

of net stuff and I see a lot of world wide web. I also write

articles for Boardwatch magazine. You guys say you were the first

news service and I don't think that's true. There were other

papers that had bomb coverage just a few hours after it happened

like the OU paper. They were on that night. If you guys were on

there earlier, you need to put a date. If not, you need to take

that off 'cause those guys at that paper could sue your ass."

Mas'ood held back laughter. He pointed out that they'd only

had a measly 6,000 hits compared to our several hundred thousand.

Gone home

I actually got out just after 9 p.m. I was going to go home,

but I was hungry. I stopped at Godfather's pizza to see if my

old high school friend, Italia, was working. She was and she

made me a mini-pizza and let me pay for it on her employee discount.

We talked love lives. She was upset because every guy she

meets walks all over her. I dunno. It's like teams. The Nice

Guys of the world vs. the Jerks. And we Nice Guys (at least I

HOPE I'm on that team) end up comforting the Nice Girls of the

world, telling them what Jerks the Jerks are and praying that

the Nice Girls will notice us Nice Guys. Never happens.

That wasn't the case this time. Italia and I have known each

other far too long. We're great friends, though, when we actually

get around to seeing each other.

She was going to come over because she was interested in maybe

seeing my apartment and living there in the summer.

I finished pizza and watched The Maxx while she finished working.

At about 10, we left and she saw the apartment. She really

liked it and she asked about my bills. I gave her some rough


She said she could only live here in the summer which is perfect

because when I get back from my Tulsa World internship I'll still

have a place to live. Life, again, seemed pretty good.

I drove her to her home in the dorms and went home with a guilty

pleasure. I was singing "Beautiful Maria" all the way.

I got home and started typing immediately. I finished Day 5

by about midnight, cleaned up Day 4 and got it ready to send and

am now finishing Day 6 at just after 2 a.m.

I missed Modern American Women, so I'll have to make up those

quizzes with a paper. I'll put it off. It's always worked before.

Tomorrow, though I have a 9 a.m. class and I can't miss it. So,

for now, I'll go to bed.

The very tired,



<== Day 5 | Day 7==>

Back to Terribly Happy

Copyright ©1995-2001 by Omar L. Gallaga