The former pastor of First United Methodist Church (First Church OKC) in downtown Oklahoma City has lost his battle to COVID-19.
Nicholas Harris was 79 years old when he died November 23, 2020, at Mercy Hospital after testing positive for COVID-19.
Harris was pastor at First United Methodist Church, adjacent to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, when a bomb exploded outside the building on April 19, 1995. The blast killed 168 people and left hundreds more injured.
“He was a fighter and he was a warrior and he was strong and yet this is it, this is what happened,” said Crystal Harris, Nicholas’ wife.
It was early November following a noontime bible study, family says, Harris began showing symptoms of COVID-19.
Harris’ wife also tested positive for COVID-19 but since recovered.
A positive test for Harris quickly turned hospitalization.
“I knew I had to get him to the hospital, so I drove and dropped him off,” said Crystal. “It was devastating but my thinking was the kids would go back and pick him up.”
Harris never left Mercy hospital, instead, making the decision not to go on a ventilator. Family said he was ready to go home.
“He was hospitalized, yes,” said Crystal. “It was a positive and now he is a death, but he was so much more than that.”
The Harris family hopes it’s not a pandemic you remember Harris by, instead his legacy even after death.
Harris was inside First United Methodist Church (First Church OKC) when the bomb went off outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
He walked outside of the church, which was badly damaged, and began rushing to victims’ aide in Oklahoma City’s darkest hour.
“It was difficult for him to talk about because it was so traumatic,” said Crystal. “We lost so much, and it was so disappointing but yet that thing that was inside of him, that thing that was inside of him just rose up.”
The Executive Director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, Kari Watkins, said Nicholas “was a partner in the building of the Memorial and the healing of our City from the very beginning. When we brought the neighborhood to a meeting to talk about the Memorial process in the fall of 1996, Nick was the first to say he would be there.”
Family said Harris had a gift for recognizing a calling in people. Over 30 men and women perused ministry, because of Harris, some are still full-time including Life Church founder Craig Groeschel.
“Of all of his gifts, and he had many, one those gifts was being a connector and he was just larger than life,” said Reverend Lesly Broadbent, current Senior Pastor at First United Methodist Church (First Church OKC). “But really, his primary gift was teaching and preaching.”
With infection and death rates continuously on the rise, the Harris family hopes the public remembers that this pandemic is very real.
“If we have to use this wonderful man as an example that it can happen to any of us, including the most strongest, most brilliant, the most giving and loving human being that I’ve never known, then it can happen to anybody,” said Crystal.
A funeral service for family only will be held Friday in Ponca City.
The Harris Family said they’re going to wait until it’s safe to host a public a celebration of life that Harris deserves which will be held at First United Methodist Church (First Church OKC).