Full Circle – April 19, 1995

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Our Second Year - Oklahoma Spring

April in Oklahoma City ushers in more than a change of seasons.

It remembers a terrible and tragic day in America.

April 19, 1995.

April 19, 1995

The Back Story

I was living in Abilene, Kansas on April 19, 1995 and was a member of a local law enforcement group called The Reserves. I provided volunteer police support to the City of Abilene, Kansas, and to the Dickinson County Sheriff, from 1993 – 1995. See related story, Full Circle – Abilene.

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The Abilene Reserves, July 1995.

I would often go on patrol over the weekends, or provide crowd and traffic control for large events like the county fair or rodeo.

Despite being teased by my co-workers as rent-a-cop, most people appreciated my service.

I found the experience to be rewarding and eye-opening in many ways.

We were not together at that time, but Cheri and I both have a personal connection to the tragic events that occurred in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.

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It was in the aftermath, when law enforcement went to work to find the culprits. As history records, they were found rather quickly, but the process of collecting evidence and building a case for the prosecution took a bit longer.

I will never forget that April day in 1995 when my law enforcement sponsor summoned me, with urgency and secrecy, to the county courthouse. The bombing event was fresh on my mind from just a few days before, so I was intrigued with what was unfolding.

We filed-in to a small room where deputies, reserve officers, and city police were gathered. We listened to the Sheriff talk about the bombing and how it had come close to home. He introduced an FBI agent, who explained to us that the bomb was constructed in the nearby community of Herington, just 30 miles to the south of Abilene.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Our Second Year - Oklahoma Spring

Many of the materials used to build the bomb were acquired in the neighboring town of McPherson, just 60 miles from Herington.

The Ryder truck that was used to haul the bomb to Oklahoma City and detonated was rented from Junction City, just 20 miles to the east.

It was a sobering realization to all of us, knowing that the dastardly deed was conceived and carried-out right in own back yard.

The town of Herington is in Dickinson County, and the county seat is Abilene, so the FBI was there to enlist our support as they served a search warrant on the property where the bomb was built. We went over the plan, made various assignments, then rolled-out to execute the search.

My role was small in-scope compared to the magnitude of what we were heading into. I was assigned perimeter control, about a block away from the house they would be searching. For good reason, there were grave concerns that the house might be booby-trapped. A federal building had just been leveled and 168 people killed, so my mission was to help keep the press and the locals at a safe distance in case something terrible happened again.

Eye of the Beholder - RV Life - Our Second Year - Oklahoma Spring
Something like this was used to probe the Herington property.

They started with a remote-controlled police robot that rolled-up to the front door and made entry.

Using cameras and listening devices they confirmed there were no traps.

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For the next several hours agents from the ATF, FBI, and others, scoured the property. I learned many weeks later that several items of key evidence were retrieved from the location. In particular, a receipt was found inside for the purchase of the ammonium nitrate used for the bomb. On this receipt was a clear fingerprint of the main culprit, Timothy McVeigh.

At the time of the bombing, Cheri was employed by Farmland Industries in Kansas City, Missouri. The FBI investigation included a paper trail for the ammonium nitrate that was used. Back-tracking the materials from the point of sale in McPherson lead them to Farmland. Cheri recalls clearly that nervous day at work when the FBI showed-up at her desk to collect documentation for the investigation.

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The Full Circle Moment

This unique intersection of our past lives through a terrible, national tragedy is strangely coincidental. It was no accident that we found ourselves together in Oklahoma City in the Spring of 2018.

As described in the Eye of the Beholder article titled, RV Life – Our Second Year – Midwest Spring, this was more than just a convenient stopping point during our long journey from Arizona to Tennessee. For many years, both of us were drawn to the Oklahoma City National Memorial, not only to pay our respects to the victims of that day, but to reflect upon our own small contributions to justice.

The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial was dedicated on April 19, 2000, five years after the bombing. President Bill Clinton joined more than 20,000 people to dedicate the site.

Less than a year later, President George Bush dedicated the Memorial Museum on Presidents’ Day, February 19, 2001.

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Justice served.

We explored the memorial grounds, inside and out, viewing the many exhibits and experiencing a tide of emotion.

The whole day felt like a full circle to us, as we remembered 1995 and our personal connections to this moment in history.

The signature moment was finding the wall plaque that described the finding of the receipt for the purchase of the ammonium nitrate.

We were hit especially hard at the end of the museum tour, inside the Gallery of Honor. Reading the personal stories of so many who lost a loved one was heartbreaking, most especially, the innocent little children who were in the on-site daycare. Of the 168 people killed that day, 19 were children, mostly under the age of 5.

Revelation 21:4

Eye of the Beholder - Full Circle - April 19, 1995
A Sobering Reflection
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The Meaning

I experienced a range of strong emotions during my visit to the memorial. Here is a retrospect on a few of them …

Sadness: Contemplating the profound loss experienced by over 160 families, the violent death of so many innocents, the permanent scar left behind on the city, and on the entire nation, evoked a deep sadness in my soul. I couldn’t help but to also think about September 11, 2001 as I gazed into the reflection pool.

Disgust: The depravity of a sick human mind that drives one to carry out such dark actions is an evil I hope to never understand. The anger that stirs in my soul for this kind-of thing is a core passion that inspired me to join law enforcement in the first place. Even though I harbor some resentment for the federal authorities who botched the Waco & Ruby Ridge operations, there’s simply no place in my heart for violent retaliation towards the innocent.

Surrender: In the midst of such strong emotion, the response I want to refine is surrender to God. I must release such feelings to the Almighty or I risk being consumed by them. I seek forgiveness for the rage in my heart, I pray for the sadness to be lifted, and I ask for His comforting Spirit to rest upon those who mourn. Matthew 6:10

Pride: Even though my role in this event was tiny, I still feel a personal sense of pride for the role I played in delivering justice. I never returned to the law enforcement ranks after leaving Abilene in September of 1995, but I carry with me the memories of my service and this personal connection to the Oklahoma City bombing.

For me, the meaning behind this full circle experience represents Introspection. See Full Circle – The Psychology.

In 1995, as a 27-year old young adult, I experienced these same strong emotions. In 2018, at the age the age of 50, the filter of time and maturity prompted some different thoughts about the world around me and my personal journey through it.

With more years behind me than in front of me, it seems clear that I’ve developed a certain wisdom of the world that I lacked in 1995. I think there is truth in this reality for most people. Time and experience really does change us, and I think the wisdom we gain from our life journey is unique to the road of life each of us have walked.

As I understand this dynamic more clearly, the less I worry about the younger generations behind me. My kids, nieces, nephews, and one day (hopefully) grandchildren, will each walk a path that The Creator has prepared just for them. So I will pray for discernment and wisdom for each of them, and I’ll keep the faith that each step of their life journey will be blessed with a divine purpose, large or small.

Ephesians 5:15-17

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Steve Coryell