View Full Version : Oklahoma City Federal Building Re-Opens

01-13-04, 08:13 AM
Oklahoma City Federal Building Re-Opens
Submitted by: 8th Marine Corps District
Story Identification Number: 200411212211
Story by Staff Sgt. Skip Osborn

Marine Corps Recuriting Station Oklahoma City(January 12, 2004) -- At 9:02 a.m., April 19, 1995, a titanic explosion rocked downtown Oklahoma City, destroying the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 men, women, and children and injuring approximately 400 others.

Two days later, the flag-draped remains of Capt. Randolph A. Guzman, executive officer, Recruiting Station Oklahoma City, and a day after that, Sgt. Benjamin L. Davis, operations clerk, RS Oklahoma City, were carried from the ragged debris of the building. They were borne out of the wreckage by four former Marines assigned to the Federal Emergency Management Agency Task Force 1, which organized police, firemen and emergency medical service specialists from around the nation for recovery efforts following the tragedy.

After the devastation of what was, at the time, the country's most damaging terrorist attack, the remaining federal employees relocated their offices throughout the city. Eight and one-half years later they started moving back into the new Oklahoma City federal building, across the street from where the Murrah Building once stood, and less than a block from what is now the memorial site.

The new three-story, horseshoe-shaped building cost $33 million to build. It's main entrance is enclosed in 3/4-inch thick, floor-to-ceiling steel panels. It's windows are specially treated so they will not shatter in an explosion, and waist-high concrete plugs, designed to keep vehicles at bay, surround the structure. It is the first federal building to be built in the United States in more than 15 years and is one of the most durable facilities in the nation.

No matter how robust the structure is though, the new federal building still fails to provide a sense of emotional security for some federal employees who survived the bombing, and several have refused to return to the new structure. For others, like RS Oklahoma City's Recruiter Instructor Master Gunnery Sgt. Patrick M. Waters, the return is a statement about the strength of our government, and something they will not evade.

"I think it sends a message that you can damage someone's life, but you can't break their spirit," said Waters. "You may kill a Guzman or a Davis, but you can't beat America. It's a statement that the Corps is an institution and is more enduring than any terrorist organization."

Waters was lucky on the day of the bombing. He and several others were attending a career-recruiter conference in New Orleans. After hearing news of the bombing, they were sent back to Oklahoma City, assisted Task Force 1 in recovering their co-workers and set up a temporary processing station so they could continue striving to make mission. A statement of their fortitude is that they were back in business and processing applicants at the Armed Forces Reserve Center one day after the bombing.
"Moving in here brings back a lot of memories," said Waters. "But in the Corps you lose good friends all the time and life has to go on. We can't bring Guzman or Davis back, but our willingness to go on is a testament to their legacy. With my blood pressure I could have a heart attack tomorrow, but the Corps would go on."

For RS Oklahoma City, the reminders of terror are overtly present and will be forever. An example is the space allocated for RS Oklahoma City's government vehicle parking. It is the same underground parking structure, then under the old federal building and now directly under the memorial, that the RS used before the bombing. Then, after parking a vehicle, an individual must walk past the entire memorial to get to work in the new building.

"It was a little eerie at first when I walked past the concrete wall that used to be the tunnel leading to the daycare in the old building," said Waters, "but I parked there for five years straight so it doesn't bother me too much."

Besides those reminders, the RS has recovered and preserved the original colors and pieced together the shattered ceramic Marine Corps Seal that used to hang in the old office. They are now on display in the RS's new reception area and the key parts of the RS are named after those Marines lost to terrorism.

"The RS conference room will always be the Guzman room, the [operations] room will always be the Davis room, and now we have a new room to dedicate," said Maj. Kendal A. Martinez, commanding officer, RS OKC.
The sergeant major's office will be dedicated to Sgt. Maj. Michael S. Curtain, Marine Corps Reserve, New York City police officer, and one of the emergency workers who pulled Guzman and Davis from the wreckage. Curtain, a hero many times over, also fell victim to terrorism during the Sept. 11 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Those small memorials we create to honor fallen Marines will ensure that our brothers will never be forgotten. They will ensure that their legacy, and the legacy of the Corps will live on, because of their spirit, service, and sacrifice.


The new federal building as viewed from the Oklahoma bombing memorial. Photo by: Staff Sgt. Skip Osborn