Emergency Management official reflects on how Florida building collapse evokes haunting memories of Oklahoma City Bombing

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Items and debris dangle from a section of the oceanfront Champlain Towers South Condo that partially collapsed Thursday, June 24, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami, Fla. (Susan Stocker/South Florida Sun-Sentinel via AP)

OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – For Albert and Cindy Ashwood, the recent collapse of part of a building in Surfside, Fla., is hauntingly familiar.

Albert Ashwood was the head of recovery for the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management when the Oklahoma City Bombing occurred.

Timothy McVeigh parked a truck in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on the morning of April 19, 1995. The truck was loaded with a bomb made of agricultural fertilizer, diesel fuel and other chemicals.

The bomb exploded at 9:02 a.m., ripping through the Murrah Building, killing 168 people, including 19 children, and injuring several hundred others.

Twenty-six years later, a tragedy that evokes heartbreaking memories of that dreadful day.

A section of a partially collapsed building is seen early Thursday, June 24, 2021, in the Surfside area of Miami, Fla. A partial building collapse in Miami caused a massive response early Thursday from Miami Dade Fire Rescue, according to a tweet from the department’s account. Miami Dade Fire Rescue is conducting search and rescue. Authorities had no word yet on casualties, or details of how many people lived in the building. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

Part of a 12-story building in Surfside, Fla., located near Miami, collapsed on Thursday. The building contained 136 units; 55 of them fell. Four people have been confirmed dead and 159 people are still unaccounted for.

Community members have remained in the devastated area, holding up printed photos and photos on their phones of their missing loved ones.

The Ashwoods cannot help but remember Oklahoma City’s massive tragedy when seeing images of the Surfside building and its debris.

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Cindy and Albert Ashwood

“I think looking at the tragedy in Miami, the collapse of the building, or parts of the building, bring back a lot of memories of the scenes that we saw in April of ‘95 – the gray ash, the people wanting to know where their loved ones are, the search and rescue folks who are digging in debris – it’s hard not to bring back those memories,” Albert said on Friday.

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The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building after the explosion on April 19, 1995.

“When I got home from work yesterday and saw the television coverage…it immediately looked like the front of the Murrah building. I didn’t even know yet what had happened,” Cindy said.

Both Cindy and Albert remarked on the devastating circumstances of the building collapse in Florida. The exact cause of the collapse is not yet known.

“Regardless of what caused it, it’s the fact that [it was similar] to what happened on April 19. Those people were asleep, but people were just doing what they normally did when this happened. It was very shocking to see,” Cindy said.

Albert spoke about the pain that many Floridians are feeling.

“I can imagine what the families are going through, trying to find their loved ones, making sure that those who are lost and missing are located,” he said. “This is just a devastating situation and we don’t know what the cause of it was, but that’s irrelevant right now. Right now we need to make sure that we help out those families that are hurting so terribly.”

Albert also spoke about Miami-Dade County’s emergency workers, honoring their ongoing efforts in Surfside and reflecting upon their vital presence in Oklahoma City following the 1995 bombing.

“They were the ones who came to help us during our time of need. I want to make sure that Oklahoma and all the resources of Oklahoma are there to help them as well,” Albert said. “[They] did such an outstanding job here in Oklahoma along with the teams from across the United States that worked this event. And I’m sure that Oklahoma City Fire Department, Oklahoma City Police, EMSA, myself and people like myself are just thinking of them at this time and making sure that we can do anything to help them out possibly.”

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