Oklahoma City Bombing

W. Joseph Campbell is a professor in the School of Communication at American University
American University


The future began 20 years ago, according to a new book by W. Joseph Campbell. In 1995, Timothy McVeigh’s truck bomb killed 168 people in Oklahoma City and sparked a debate about security. The Dayton Peace Accords ended a brutal war in the former Yugoslavia. The O.J. Simpson trial captured the imagination of a nation. Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski began their affair that led to the President’s impeachment. And 1995 was the year the internet went mainstream.

purple heart medal in a case
Lance Cpl. Jeffrey A. Cosola / United States Marine Corps

U.S. Rep. Steve Russell has inserted language into the National Defense Authorization Act that would award the Purple Heart to six service members who were killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.

The two soldiers, two airmen and two Marines were working as recruiters in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995.

On this edition of OETA's weekly public affairs program Oklahoma Forum, how Oklahomans reacted to the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995 and changed disaster response in the United States.

Air Force senior master sergeant Gary Kirby stood in a police lineup with Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh in 1995.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

It was supposed to be Gary Kirby’s day off when the senior airman in the United States Air Force got a call from his first sergeant. The request: Come back to Tinker Air Force Base dressed in a pair of blue jeans, a white t-shirt and white socks.

Kirby, now a senior master sergeant, showed up at the headquarters building to find a big, blue Air Force bus. He climbed on board, where he found between 40 and 50 guys --- and all of them looked like him.

Legacy Of The Oklahoma City Bombing

Apr 20, 2015
The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on May 19, 1995, exactly one month after the bombing. It was demolished four days later.
Than217 / Wikimedia Commons

What does the Oklahoma City bombing mean now, two decades later? Will the memory and meaning of April 19, 1995, gradually recede into a distant echo?

That's hard to believe as one considers the extensive observances and media coverage this month. The grief and shock of what happened are as palpable as ever: On a sunny Wednesday morning, a terrorist bomb ripped apart the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 men, women and children. Those who saw it will never forget the black smoke rising in the sky, the bloody images of the  injured, and the wreckage of the  building marring the downtown skyline.

This multimedia story, including a video and a podcast, revolves around a question: What has changed because of the bombing? Oklahoma Watch spoke with several experts or leaders about their views on the impact of the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.

It's been 20 years since a bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people and injuring hundreds more.

As Oklahoma City prepares to look back on the bombing, one thing is clear — downtown is a far different and much better place than it was in 1995. And it's hard to deny the role the bombing played in the area's resurgence.

Even on a weekday, visitors line up in downtown Oklahoma City to take a tour of the area.

Family members and friends of Oklahoma City bombing victims gathered at the Oklahoma City National Memorial to commemorate the bombing's 20th anniversary.
Jacob McCleland / KGOU

Updated 10:31 a.m.: Ceremony concludes as dignitaries, survivors reflect

As rain started to fall on the Oklahoma City National Memorial Sunday morning, former President Bill Clinton delivered powerful remarks that drew a standing ovation from the thousands who gathered to mark the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.

"For a whole country, you burned away all the petty squabbles in which we engage, leaving only our basic humanity. I mostly came here to thank you today," Clinton said.

Twenty years ago this Sunday, a truck bomb exploded next to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. One hundred sixty-eight people were killed in the blast, hundreds were injured.

The bombing prompted heightened security at federal buildings — around the nation, and especially here in Washington.

One of the government's first responses to the bombing was closing a two-block stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum
Brian Hardzinski / KGOU

The bomb that destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City killed 168 people - including 19 children. It injured hundreds more, and forever shaped the community.

April 19, 1995 started as an idyllic spring morning - clear skies, calm winds - better than most Wednesdays during the state’s usually-turbulent severe weather season. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. Workers showed up to their jobs, and went about their regular routines.

That all changed at 9:02 a.m.

Oklahoma's longest-serving Congressman led the state's delegation on the House floor in Washington Thursday to reflect on the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing as the 20th anniversary approaches.

U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas was a freshman lawmaker representing Oklahoma's now-defunct Sixth Congressional District that included downtown Oklahoma City.