OKLAHOMA CITY – It is hard to imagine that nearly 20 years ago, a bomb exploded and changed Oklahoma City forever.
On April 19, 1995, a bomb exploded in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.
As first responders and Good Samaritans ran to the bomb site, it was immediate that this was no accident.
“Shortly after the blast, the switchboard transferred me a call and I recall it’s from an Oklahoma City firefighter. And talking to him over the phone, he’s very excited, and I kept trying to get him to tell me what had happened. And all he kept relaying to me was that, ‘We need help, we need help, we need soldiers down here,” said Maj. Gen. Robbie Asher, with the Oklahoma National Guard.
Within 24 hours, 115 guardsmen were on duty around the building to provide security for first responders.
As firefighters and police officers searched for survivors, members of the Oklahoma National Guard searched through the debris for clues.
FBI agents and U.S. Marshals needed help sifting through every single piece of debris from the site, so soldiers were transferred to that area.
“When we first arrived there, you know, you’ve got some that are pretty bland looking piles of rubble and some that are very colorful. And the colorful ones tended to be the daycare. It had the finger-paintings and toys, tricycles,” said Maj. Colby Wyatt, with the Oklahoma National Guard.
“They had to sift through that by their hands. We warned them that there may be some body parts in there,” said Maj. Gen. Stephen Cortright, with the Oklahoma National Guard.
Guardsmen sifted through over 100 dump truck loads worth of debris.
“It was a very, very tough mission to put young soldiers out there, sifting with their hands, looking for body parts, something enough that they could get some DNA or something off of,” said Cortright.
In addition to sifting through debris, soldiers were also tasked with comforting victims’ families and helping them track down loved ones.
Almost 20 years later, the soldiers’ mission is being brought to light through a new documentary.