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Dramatic Photos Capture The Oklahoma City Bombing As It Happened

AP

Florence Rogers rushed to get to work early on April 19, 1995.

She had just returned home from an ocean cruise, and wanted to show her coworkers all of her photos from the vacation.

Rogers had just turned on her computer when a massive explosion rocked her workplace, Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Alfred P. Murrah building Oklahoma City
The Murrah building before the explosion.Oklahoma City National Memorial

Suddenly, Rogers was left alone in the eerie silence, surrounded by falling glass and fluttering papers.

“All the girls that was in the office with me disappeared," Rogers remembered.

"I started hollering, 'Where are you guys?'"

Rogers didn't realize it at the time, but she had just narrowly survived America's deadliest domestic terrorist attack.

The Explosion

Alfred P. Murrah federal building
AP

At 9:02 a.m., a rented Ryder delivery truck filled with 4,800 pounds of fertilizer and diesel fuel detonated in front of the Murrah building.

A third of the building was immediately destroyed, and cars across the street were set on fire by the heat of the blast.

Oklahoma City bombing.
Cars destroyed in the explosion, across the street from the Murrah building.Preston Chasteen - Wikimedia

The explosion was loud enough to be heard 50 miles away, and flying debris from the building was found blocks away from the explosion - including the rear axle of the bomber's truck.

Oklahoma City Bombing
The glass on this building blocks away from the explosion was completely destroyed.AP

All told, the blast killed 168 people - including 19 children - and injured almost 700 others throughout downtown Oklahoma City.

Rescue Workers

Oklahoma City Bombing
Reuters

The huge sound of the explosion alerted rescue workers and journalists, who rushed to the scene.

Oklahoma City's fire chief, Mike Shannon, was one of the first emergency workers on the scene.

Oklahoma City bombing
AP

A photo of fireman Chris Fields carrying an injured infant away from the rubble became the iconic image of the bombing.

Oklahoma City bombing
Chris Fields carries Baylee Almon away from the rubble.Corbis

The girl in his arms, Baylee Almon, had turned one year old just a day before the bombing. She died soon after the photo was taken.

The photo went on to win the Pulitzer Prize, but Fields said he grappled with post-traumatic stress disorder after it was taken.

Chris Fields
Chris Fields and his family.Chris Fields

“I have come a long way," he told Today as he retired in 2017.

“It took me a long time to get to this point… it definitely affected my personal life as the years went on, but everything is great now."

As rescue workers rushed to save lives, a manhunt was already underway for a domestic terrorist.

The Suspect

Less than two hours after the explosion, the man behind the bombing was arrested in a routine traffic stop.

Timothy McVeigh mug shot
McVeigh's traffic stop mug shot.Oklahoma State Troopers

An Oklahoma state trooper pulled over a beat-up Mercury Marquis with no license plates driving down Interstate 35.

After searching the driver, he found he had a concealed handgun and took him into custody.

At the time, police had no idea that the car's owner, Timothy McVeigh, was responsible for the bombing.

Timothy McVeigh
AP

Luckily, a backlog of court cases delayed McVeigh's hearing by a day, which gave police time to connect him to the bombing.

Innocent Victims

A Gulf War veteran and a supporter of the militia movement, McVeigh later admitted the bombing was retribution against the FBI and ATF (the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Fireworks).

Waco siege
McVeigh carried out the bombing on the second anniversary of the FBI's Waco siege.FBI

McVeigh believed he was at war with the government agencies, and wanted revenge for the way they handled the Waco and Ruby Ridge standoffs.

But only a tiny number of McVeigh's victims worked for the federal government.

Just eight worked for federal law enforcement agencies

Oklahoma City bombing
AP

Many of the people killed in the bombing were just trying to renew drivers licenses and social security cards.

One woman's family was killed as she waited in line for a social security card for her newborn daughter.

McVeigh had also parked his truck just below the building's America's Kids Day Care Center, and 15 of the children inside were killed.

America's Kids Day Care Center
A memorial for children killed in the bombing at the Oklahoma City Memorial and Museum.Mae's Wild West Adventures

Another minor miracle saved the lives of some children at the day care center: a few parents had kept their children home because of a change in the center's staff.

Emergency workers continued to pull bodies from the Murrah building rubble for more than a month.

Meanwhile, the nation came together to pay tribute to the survivors and victims. And the bombing's perpetrators were brought to justice.

The Aftermath

McVeigh was charged with a number of crimes related to the bombing, and sentenced to death.

He was executed in June, 2001.

Timothy McVeigh execution
The chamber where Timothy McVeigh was executed.AP

McVeigh's accomplice, Terry Nichols, was given multiple life sentences for his role in the bombing.

In a memorial ceremony for the bombing victims, President Bill Clinton gave voice to the nation's shock and sadness.

Bill Clinton
AP
Oklahoma City bombing memorial
President Bill Clinton declared a national day of mourning following the bombing.Corbis

“You will overcome this moment of grief and horror," he told the crowd.

"You will rebuild, and we will be with you until the work is done."

The president kept his word, returning to Oklahoma City for a memorial ceremony on the bombing's 20th anniversary in 2015.

President Clinton Oklahoma City memorial
Former President Bill Clinton at a memorial to the bombing victims in 2015.The Oklahoman

The Murrah building was demolished in May of 1995, when the last three victims were uncovered.

Murrah building demolition
FEMA Photo Library

Paying Tribute

Today, the space where the Murrah building once stood is now the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum.

Oklahoma City National Memorial
Duel freq - Wikimedia
Oklahoma City National Memorial
Photos of McVeigh's victims inside the memorial.AP

The museum includes the Field of Empty Chairs, with one monument for each of the bombing's 168 victims.

Field of Empty Chairs
Phil Roeder - AP
The five children who survived the bombing pose in the Field of Empty Chairs.Reuters

On the bombing's 20th anniversary, Aren Almon-Kok, the mother of the young girl in the famous picture, said the pain of losing her daughter is still fresh.

"It gets harder every year," she told the Daily Mail.

Aren Almon-Kok at her daughter's memorial in the Field of Empty Chairs.The Daily Mail

"People say 'it’ll get easier' or 'you’ll find closure.' I don’t think it does, and I don’t think I will."

Since the bombing, Almon-Kok has devoted herself to making day care centers more secure.

"When Baylee’s looking down at me from heaven I want her to be proud of the things I have done."

Do you remember where you were when you heard the news about the bombing? Share your memories with us in the comments.

[H/T: Today, NBC, Daily Mail]