Governor Frank Keating Remembers OKC Bombing 20 Years Later

Monday, January 19th 2015, 11:04 pm
By: News 9

It was Oklahoma's darkest hour; 168 lives lost in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. Three months before the anniversary, News 9 began our coverage of the attack, 20 years later, with the man at the helm during that time, Governor Frank Keating.

"You can't forget a searing time like that," said Governor Frank Keating.

On the morning of April 19, 1995, Keating had just returned from a Mayor's Prayer Breakfast, when he got the word.

"Somebody came rushing in and said there's apparently been a natural gas explosion at the Murrah Federal Office Building," he remembered.

However, once Keating saw firsthand the devastation, he knew otherwise.

Kelly Ogle: "So you knew immediately this was some kind of act of terrorism?"

Gov. Keating: "Call me cynical or call me suspicious but when I saw that I said, 'You know, somebody blew that building up, and it's filled with people, this is a bad deal.'"

Turned out his years of experience in law enforcement and gut instinct proved he was right. A parked rental truck full of explosives blew up in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, demolishing the entire north side of the building and killing 168 people, 19 of those were children. The explosion damaged or destroyed more than 300 buildings downtown.

Kelly Ogle: "What was the first thing you did, do you remember? What was the first call you made?"

Gov. Keating: "Well the first thing I did was get our senior team together. Then I went over to our commanding control center which is underneath the capitol grounds and talked to President Clinton and he said, ‘What do you need?' And I said 'I think everything.'"

In the days and weeks ahead, just more than 12,000 volunteers and rescue workers helped in the rescue and recovery efforts.

"You don't know if somebody is willing to risk himself or herself to save others much less save somebody's remains, but Oklahomans did that," he said.

Authorities arrested Timothy McVeigh in the bombing, a Gulf War veteran who sought revenge against the federal government.

Kelly Ogle: "Were you surprised it was domestic terrorism?"

Gov. Keating: "What stunned me the most was that somebody who should know better, somebody who wanted to make a political statement would kill 19 babies and a total of 168 of our neighbors and friends. What an evil, piece of junk he is, that was my reaction."

The investigation resulted in the execution of McVeigh and a life sentence without parole for his accomplice, Terry Nichols. 

The surviving structure of the Murrah building was demolished in May of 1995. Now, the area is home to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, a place to honor the victims, survivors and rescue workers.

Learn more about the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.

Kelly Ogle: "It is an amazing thing that has happened here isn't is, over the last 20 years?"

Gov. Keating: "I just think people are so enamored with the story of this city, we wish all those wonderful people were still here, but hopefully, out of evil, good comes and bad things make good people respond and we certainly responded," Keating said.