20 Years Later

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[pullquote]I am Mindful
to Be Grateful.”[/pullquote]

Melissa Houston didn’t hear an explosion, but her hair stood on end. At the time of the bombing, Houston was in the Journal Record building on the south side of the third floor. She was reading criminal statutes, which she describes as “horribly boring.

“I made a deal with myself that I would keep working until nine [a.m.], and then I would get up from my desk and take a walk or something. But a guy in the office behind me started talking to me at nine, and I remember being annoyed, because it was past the time when I wanted to get up,” Houston says. “That’s a lesson I’ve tried to carry with me: Don’t let interruptions and distractions annoy you so much, because maybe there’s a reason for them.”

Melissa Houston was in the Journal Record building, located next to the Murrah building, when the bomb detonated.
Melissa Houston was in the Journal Record building, located next to the Murrah building, when the bomb detonated.

A couple short minutes later, Houston was on the floor, with the ceilings, walls and bookshelf from across the room forming a lean-to around her. She was uninjured.

“I had a difficult time getting out of the building. I thought all of downtown had been bombed. Some people talked about a gas line exploding, but I always thought that something evil had happened,” Houston says.

With no concept of time in the face of disaster, Houston says she has no idea how long it took her to get out of the building, but she does remember waiting with some of her coworkers, one of whom was hurt pretty badly on her face from glass, to find a way out.

“I went into shock for about two days. Later, I saw footage on TV, and from where the cameraman was, I must have been standing right next to him. That’s the first time I remember feeling something, and that was days after it happened. I felt horror and fear and sadness and guilt, and I went through a time of darkness for a while,” Houston says.

Although she says she had completely lost her faith at this time in her life, after talking with a priest, she was set on a positive path.

“That opened my heart enough to listen,” Houston says. “My mother had gotten me a gratitude journal. In the beginning I was not grateful for anything, but I loved my mother, so I agreed. Over time, I started to look at the world that way, and it changed my attitude.”

Now, Houston’s faith is her foundation, and she tries to appreciate the little things of everyday life.

“Even now, when overwhelmed by laundry, I am mindful to be grateful for the dryer and for the people who wear those clothes,” she says.

Houston allows herself to be sad on the anniversary of the bombing and remember those who lost their lives, but April 20 is a day of hope and strength.

“That’s the day of moving forward. I got married in 2002 on April 20, and we purposely picked that day,” Houston says.

Today, Houston and her husband have two sons, one in third and the other in fourth grade. She took them to the memorial for the first time last year and says even though it is hard to explain to children what happened, she tries to focus on how people responded.

“I try to teach them the importance of what happened that day and never forget the lives lost, people hurt and the evil committed. But to also learn the lessons of that day and that good does overcome evil,” Houston says.

Houston is the chief of staff at the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office.

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