More than two and a half decades after the Murrah Federal Building bombing, many visitors to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum are hearing accounts and stories for the first time.
On Friday, three days before the 26th anniversary, visitors received a special tour guided by a man who knows the stories well.
It’s not often that Richard Williams gets to visit the building on North Harvey Avenue. He now lives with his wife in Texas, but Oklahoma City will always be his home.
For 18 years, The Alfred P. Murrah federal building was where he spent his days.
As Williams guided the tour group through glass displays and video testimonies, each saw what it looked like and what it sounded like on the morning of April 19th, 1995. Many on the tour were taking it in for the first time.
For Richard however, the words were familiar. He’s been telling his story ever since that day. At 9:02 a.m. he was there.
“I was in my office that morning,” he recalled. “I had just come out of a meeting, was standing there talking with my coworker about the results of that meeting and that’s the last thing I remember.”
Buried under a pile of rubble, Williams was among the first people found.
Williams spent years as the building’s caretaker, and he spent every day with the federal employees inside. While he may not recall much from the day of the bombing, he remembers each and every person who was taken in an instant.
“They were fellow softball players, they were people that we did things with. We were like one big family in that building,” he said.
He often thinks about his friends. He even thinks about those he didn’t know at the time. Their families have now become like his own. Their names are now etched in glass at the base of bronze and stone.
“We were just regular people doing our jobs every day providing service to the public and somebody decided they wanted to take that away from us,” Williams said.
He admitted after 26 years, telling his story can be emotional, but he continues nonetheless.
“It’s important for me to make sure we never forget them and that people understand who they were,” he said.
He also sees the importance of sharing his story in schools, with people who may not be from Oklahoma or may not have been born
One of those people joined the Friday tour. Anthony Courkamp was born just a year later on April 19th, 1996.
“When I was being born, on the tv in the hospital it was all news coverage of this event,” Courkamp said.
He made the trip from Kansas to Oklahoma City for his 25th birthday.
“It was very moving to hear it from somebody who experienced it firsthand,” Courkamp said.
Richard recognizes that this event and this story have a tremendous impact across the nation.
“It reaches out to people from all places and all kinds of backgrounds,” he explained. “That part of life is still there, but it’s like here is the dark side and here’s new life. Here is the new beginning.”