OKC Bombing Victim Returns To Remember Mother, Children Lost
OKLAHOMA CITY - Her testimony of seeing Timothy McVeigh exit the Ryder Truck on April 19, 1995 helped authorities convict him of the Oklahoma City bombing. Daina Bradley's life, like so many others, changed that day. She rarely speaks about that day, but she recently visited Oklahoma City to remember the loss that still haunts her as she still tries to find reasons to smile.
"I'm here, I'm alive, I'm grateful," said Daina Bradley, the last victim pulled out alive from the Murrah Building.
Bradley walks with a prosthetic leg, a constant, physical reminder of the bombing.
"I remember going in, my mom and my sister, my daughter and my son," she said.
She was inside the social security office on the first floor to get her three-month-old son's social security card. She was filling out the paperwork while her mother stood in line. She says she noticed the Ryder truck parked outside and saw McVeigh and another man get out. Then, the bomb exploded.
"Just everything went red and I slowly looked and the clock was exactly 9:01," she remembered. "After that, I just blacked out."
When she came to, she was pinned under heavy concrete inside the pit of the blown out building.
"I had the whole floor slanted down and I was basically in a coffin," she said. "I realized I was trapped and that's when I started screaming for help and I could hear my sister on the side of me, I could hear her screaming for help."
Doctors had to perform a field operation to amputate her leg with scalpels and a pocket knife, just to free her from the rubble.
"I said 'do what you have to do, get me out of here,'" she said. “They said that when they were cutting my leg, cutting across the knee, the knife broke twice.”
It was later in the hospital when she received confirmation about what she already knew, her mother, Cheryl Hammons, three-year-old daughter, Peachlyn and three-month-old son, Gabreon had died. Her sister Falesha Bradley was severely injured.
"I lost my mom and my kids," she said. "My sister, she was in ICU and she had one side of her brain gone and she had staples all the way from her chest all the way down to her legs because they pulled a half of a barrel out of her side from the explosion. She had to learn how to walk and talk again, how to eat again."
Bradley's painful journey to find peace has been long. On this day, she returned to where it began, now the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. Before entering the memorial grounds, though, she sat down at the feet of a weeping statue of Jesus across the street.
"God is here and God is standing there," she said. "And that's the first place you want to go before you come here, so that you have a peace of mind that God can give you."
Inside the National Memorial and Museum, the pictures are a sobering reminder of all she lost that day, her mother and two children..
"I think of them all the time, there's not one day that I don't wish my mom was here, just to give me some advice or talk to me or something," she said.
Bradley's third child, Alize, was born one year after the bombing and is a reminder that life goes on, no matter how hard it gets.
"I love my babies so much, every one of them," she said. "But I still got one and he's not a baby anymore."
Along with her grateful heart, Bradley's love of music has helped in her healing. She plays several instruments including the guitar and drums. However, dark thoughts still creep up on her.
"I have had points where I just totally break down and curl up in a ball and just don't want to deal with anything and then I get that strength in me that says don't give up,'" she said with conviction. "That's what I live off of, I've got to or I'll never be happy."
Bradley still deals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and wants to be a beacon of hope for others suffering from the disorder. She says to never isolate yourself and to get help.
"Hope gives people strength to believe that they can do beyond what other people tell them they can do, beyond what you thought that you could do," she said.
Bradley's story is set to be featured in a motion picture about the Oklahoma City Bombing. "Beauty for Ashes" is slated to be released in theaters in 2018.