It's been 30 years since the day that changed Gene Bray's life, but the memory is still as clear as the day it happened.
“All of a sudden I heard a, ‘Bam! Bam!’ I didn't think that much of it.”
Bray, now 84, said sitting in the lobby of the Hampton Inn and Suites in Edmond. He said he thought it was a joke. Someone banging a metal tray of mail to play a prank on a co-worker.
Bray said it was a common prank among co-workers, but then came a second round of shots. Bray got up to look for who was making the sound. When he turned the corner from his desk…
“I'll never forget that look as long as I live,” he said.
Bray was looking at the shooter, 44-year-old Patrick H. Sherill, aiming his pistol directly at Bray. Sherill had just executed the post office supervisor who had given him a poor performance review the day before. Bray turned to run and was shot in the back.
"I managed to get back to my desk. When I got back to my desk, I passed out," he said
The bullet hit Bray's kidney and lodged in his stomach. He eventually woke up and found his way outside where he was rushed to the hospital.
"He started saying, 'I'm not going to make it. I'm not going to make it.' And I said, 'You certainly are!'" Gene's wife, Lois, said with tears in her eyes.
Lois had been working at the nearby University of Central Oklahoma when a friend called and told her Gene had been shot. She and her daughter rushed to the hospital.
It would be several days before the Brays learned the whole story. Fifteen postal workers, including the shooter, were dead and six were injured. Despite his injuries, which have confined him to a wheelchair, Gene says he's forgiven the shooter and only wishes he could have done more to help a troubled man.
"Surely there was something I could have said or done to help prevent this," Gene wondered aloud. "I can't, my mind just goes blank."
"Surely there was something I could have said or done to help prevent this. And I can't, my mind just goes blank."