Keatings Reflect On Leading State During Its Darkest Hour


Monday, April 13th 2020, 11:33 am
By: News 9, Robin Marsh


Former Gov. Frank Keating was in office just three months before the Murrah Building bombing on April 19, 1995. News 9's Robin Marsh sat down with Frank and Cathy Keating about how they stepped up in Oklahoma's darkest hour.

"It was a beautiful spring morning. The sun was shining. The air was crisp. It just was a beautiful Oklahoma morning," the state's former First Lady said.

The newly elected governor had been at a morning prayer breakfast.

"And it was downtown. We came back, and the rest is history. You could tell something major league had occurred," Gov. Keating said.

Was it a natural gas explosion?

"There's too much destruction for a natural gas explosion," he said. "Of course it was a truck bomb that destroyed all of those wonderful lives," he said.

Cathy Keating said the one question she'd hear over and over again is, "Why us? Why does God let these things happen to good people?"

In the moments after the blast, Keating declared a state of emergency and called on the state and national task force. He will never forget the magnitude of that moment.

"These are really impressive people," he said about those joining him from the task forces. "I remember I counted the cameras, and there were like 30 cameras there. I said, 'Good Lord, this is a big story,' because I had not even visited the site yet."

Once at the site, the former FBI agent Keating said he noticed a crucial piece of evidence.

"I noticed what appeared to be a burned-out piece of a car or truck. I said, 'Look at that. That looks like it's probably from whatever that blew up this building. There will be a VIN somewhere,'" he said.

More than 12,000 people helped in the rescue and recovery. The Federal Emergency Management Administration brought in 665 rescue workers, 24 K9 units and out-of-state dogs. Gov. Keating said one rescue worker paid him the highest compliment about the Oklahoma Standard.

"When this one urban search-and-rescue team was leaving, this firefighter brought out a dollar bill. He said, 'Hey, governor. You know what this is?' I said, 'I'm in politics. I know what money looks like.' And he replied, 'This is a dollar I brought with me when I came, and it's the same dollar I'm leaving with,'" Keating said.

That rescuer hadn't spent a nickel. Oklahomans took care of him while he was there.

"Everybody had been so generous in providing everything needed. That's the Oklahoma Standard. It was an amazing story of love, courage and generosity," Keating said.

The state's First Lady knew that healing was needed. So, Cathy Keating organized a prayer service to take place four days after the bombing.

She called evangelist Billy Graham.

"The night before, I said to Frank, 'I'm not sure he has the strength to get up and do this,'" Cathy Keating said.

But then Graham looked down, and then looked up.

"And you could see the spirit of God fill his body. Everybody could see it. He gave the strongest and most reassuring speech," she said.

Time has been good to the Keatings. They now have 11 grandchildren. Both Frank and Cathy are working, continuing today on the front lines of service work for the community. They're also planning on releasing a book for children, called "Love Won: The Oklahoma Standard."

That's so that the lesson of what happened in Oklahoma City 25 years ago is never forgotten.

"Good triumphs evil every time," Cathy Keating said. "If we look for the goodness in humanity, together, we can accomplish anything -- and we did in Oklahoma City."