Great State: Special Ops Chief Recalls His Lessons Learned from April 19, 1995

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OKLAHOMA CITY, OKLAHOMA -- Metal scraps and heavy construction debris litter an industrial yard in south Oklahoma City.

Mike Shannon placed a lot of it in big piles to make it look like a bomb went off.

"There's no place like this in Oklahoma," he says.

On a rainy morning he is, once again, my tour guide, this time through pretend disaster.

If it look familiar there's a reason.

"It was 188 hours in the Murrah," he recalls. "Over a 10 to 14 day period,"

In the first few days after the April 19th Murrah Building Bombing the scene on 5th Street resembled Mike's training grounds; a labyrinth of twisted steel and debris held up with wooden trusses and metal pipe.

"It was like a screen door in a submarine," he says of the first frantic hours. "There was so much to do and it didn't seem like there were enough people to do it."

Shannon was the Special Operations Battalion Chief. His job, after rescue, was to help recover evidence and the dead.

It was a painfully, slow, methodical process.

"Everything we did was like a great big game of Pixy Stix," he explains. "Everything you moved might set off something you may not even realized you did."

He took a local pool camera through the ruins while fire crews and construction workers were still busy with their awful task.

These images are the ones that surface most in the memory of the photographer who was there that day.

Shannon carries memories like this too, of hundreds of people who came together to perform a difficult job, and who would come to define the term Oklahoma Standard.

He says, "Because of people who worked so well together at the drop of a hat."

Mike took his lessons from the Murrah with him. His list of do's and especially his list of don'ts. "

I don't really know all the stuff to do next time but I definitely know what not to do," he says.

His company, Response International Group, has trained rescue crews from all over the world the many things he learned in the dark days following April 19, 1995.

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