Barry Black, Special Agent, Oklahoma City FBI
Barry Black recalls responding to the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995.
You show up on the scene like that and clearly it’s huge. I was in Waco during the first Trade Center bombing. And as a bomb technician you kind of keep track of those sorts of things so this was clearly, from inception, a unique and major event. How it tied into McVeigh’s perception of Waco and linking those things together was unusual, which of course we learned later on. But the scope of it from the time I drove up was obvious.
I was there around 9:30 or 9:35. It was very early on. As I said, the fires were still burning. I remember a part of the site assessment was just to give a sense of what had gone on and you could still see people trapped on the upper floors of the building and of course the firefighters were putting the fires out and paramedics and ambulances. There were a lot of wounded people, walking wounded.
It’s emotional but there is a lot to do. And it’s not that you’re not empathetic or sympathetic but you have to sort of push through that to get to the job at hand. You know just like I can’t help somebody as a paramedic could or the firefighter apparatus so everybody has a specialty and you just have to rely on those other first responders that they are going to take care of their part and they will presume that I’m going to do my part.
We were on sight a lot. I remember the Red Cross would bring out something hot to eat on occasion because really it was difficult to leave. But it was almost like the world was going on outside that bubble. But my wife has told me that friends and people I haven’t heard from in a very long time would call the house just to see how she was doing, see how I was doing. There would be call on the media for boots or gloves and they would show up by the truckload.
There was a building not far from the Murrah Building that was full of supplies. And over the years, I’ve talked to some of the urban rescue folks that came in from other states and they remember today, 20 years later, that they couldn’t buy a cup of coffee. They would go into a restaurant to eat before trying to sleep for a little bit and they go to pay and they were told that someone has already paid for your meal or it’s on the house. It’s come to known now as the Oklahoma Standard that the way the community just turned out completely. It was moving.
People are used to thee one hour televisions shows where they solve complex crimes. This was just not the case. This involved 1,008,000 man-hours. It was 1,400 people working about 840 days to come up with the volume of information that went into the case.
Looking back over the 20 years, it was a very thorough and protracted investigation. I made three trips to Denver during the trial. You know it’s hard on your families, it’s hard on the victims, it’s hard on everybody.
I’m proud that things worked the way they should. The system was followed. Everybody got a fair trial. The jury did their job. The judge did his job. So things worked as they should.
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