Today is the 22nd anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing. On that day I stood on the 21st floor of the First National Bank Building, 2 blocks south of the Alfred P. Murrah Building. The blast was so strong that it made me fall. Someone in my office said "that's the Federal Building." I said, "NO! My brother works in the Federal Building."
I'll never, ever forget that elevator ride to the first floor. I was exhilarated. I hated my job and the women I worked with. A day off!!!! Our family was so close and Oh! So lucky! Nothing like this could have ever happened to us.
I drove from downtown OKC to my parents' home, going down East Reno Ave. as the interstate (I-40) had already been blocked by OKC's finest (see The Oklahoma Standard). I got to Mom and Dad's house. They had heard and felt the explosion but weren't worried. We lived near Tinker Air Force base and had experienced several plane crashes during the Vietnam War. But the plume of smoke was in a different direction. Dad stayed out in his garden. I remember the television was on and was showing the chaos downtown. Our friend, Mrs. Johnson, called to say her son had seen Paul helping out and we were so relieved. I wanted to page Paul (this was before cell phones) but my dad said "NO!" We need to stay out of the way and let him do his job. Dad stayed in the garden, but Mom and I were inside. She sat on the sofa and I laid down next to her with my head in her lap. I think we both knew.
Some time after, Dad became concerned. This feeble old man decided he needed to go downtown the St. Anthony Hospital which was the "clearing house" for bombing info. And can you believe it?!!!! On the "Treated and Released" board was the name "Paul Ice!" Oh, how happy we were. But where was he????
A couple of nurses who were assigned to help family members came to Dad's aid. It turned out that there was a Paul Ice who was a janitor at the church across the street. Now, you have to realize what irony this was. Ice, especially in the 50's, 60's, 70's in relatively small-town OKC was an incredibly unusual last name. And we were all related. And Paul was not a very common Christian name.
Our panic grew. Some hours later, we learned that Paul's secretary had been rescued and was in St. Anthony's. I went. She cried and said Paul was standing in front of her at the time of the blast. She didn't think he had survived.
I made it back to Mom and Dad's. And there we waited eight days before Paul's body was recovered.
OKC was lucky in that, unlike 9-11, all of our victim's bodies were recovered. Does that make it any easier? After 22 years I can tell you "NO." I didn't just lose a brother I came to adore, this country lost a man who served his country as a Lt. Col. in the Marines and as a Senior Special Agent with U. S. Customs (now called ICE.......oh! how he would have loved that!)
When you see a police vehicle, I hope you will always remember my brother: Paul Ice (POL-ICE). He loved his job as a soldier and a law enforcement office. We were all blessed to have him in our lives, if you knew it or not.
P. S. Forrest Gump was one of his favorite movies and the "Feather Theme" was the song that was one his answering machine the morning of the bombing. There were so many messages on his machine when we went into his home that evening. Everyone who called heard him say, "I'm not here, but take a minute to listen to this music." What I wouldn't do to have that recording again.
He was just the nicest guy in the world and I miss him terribly, even 22 years later. Doggone it.
Oklahoma City National Memorial
Forrest Gump Theme Song