National guardsman remembers OSU crash four weeks later

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Cameras captured the destruction a car caused the morning of Oct. 24 in Stillwater: crumpled strollers, shattered glass, lawn chairs tossed to the side.

In the mind of 1st Lt. Sean Mills, those pictures don't do the scene justice.

He'll remember the candy strewn in the street and the now-battered orange pumpkin baskets children had used to collect it.

"Just the signs of the people that had been there - a watch and cell phone on the ground, shoes and things. I wish there was a picture of that, because that would give a clearer idea of what it was like," he said. "There was a sign of every life that was affected there in the street. It really made me upset the kids had to see that, and the impact I know it's going to have on their lives."

That's not to downplay the impact the day made on Mills' own life, now four weeks after Adacia Chambers crashed her car into the end of the parade route.

Four people lost their lives that day.

Dozens more were injured.

Mills, a national guardsman, had just been moved to the Stillwater-based 179th Infantry and was marching in the homecoming parade.

His unit had just finished, and Mills waited behind a building for the bus to take him away.

He didn't see the crash.

He didn't hear it either.

"A gentleman came by in a truck and said some people had been hit by a car in the intersection and they might need our help," Mills said. "He was really, really calm about it, so I was shocked what I came across."

The shock didn't last long.

Mills' instincts took over.

"Everyone saw what had happened and started running toward the intersection and doing what they were good at," he said.

For more than an hour, Mills, an intensive care nurse, tended to the injured.

He said he was just focused on his task.

Now, looking back, he is beginning to grasp the gravity of everything that happened that day.

"It was on the list for one of the worst things I've seen in my entire life," said Mills, who has served in Afghanistan. "It's not that anyone being hurt or injured or killed in that setting (overseas) is any less terrible, it's just you're more prepared for it. You don't expect to see anything like that at the intersection of Hall of Fame and Main in Stillwater Oklahoma."

Mills said he hasn't kept in touch with the victims he helped that day.

In fact, he rarely talks about the day at all and tries not to think too much about it.

But, he said what happened that Saturday morning is still fresh in his mind.

"The situation kind of reaffirmed for me the bad things that a bad person in a crowd of good people can do. Somebody, who shows up to a group of good people who aren't expecting anything, can do a lot of harm. And, that's a scary thought," he said. "But, the flip side to that is the good things that good people can do together once something bad does happen. That intersection was so full of good people when it happened."

Mills remembers the firefighters and police officers who stepped into the chaos and the other members of the national guard who ran toward the scene of the crash without a second thought.

He remembers the local businesses that handed out coffee and food as the day wore on.

"People who were just there for the parade [were] doing good for people they [didn't] know," he said. "How quickly people switched into that mode was just really inspiring."