[pullquote]The Kindness Has Stayed With Me.”[/pullquote]
At the time of the bombing, Oklahoma City Police Chief Bill Citty had been a captain for about four years and the public information officer for about two. The blast was strong enough that he initially thought the bomb had been in the police headquarters five blocks away from the Murrah building, but he says they soon discovered the true location.
“I went to the scene pretty quickly. My responsibility was media, but as an officer, I also helped set up a command post to start organizing a response effort. It was very, very hectic, and there was lots of smoke and dust, and it almost felt like you were choking. I looked at the building and it felt surreal. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Citty says.
As an emergency responder, the full impact of the event didn’t hit until after he left the scene, Citty says.
“The first thing I thought when I walked down was how overwhelming it was, and I thought, ‘How are we going to deal with this?’” he recalls. “But you kick in doing things that you would normally do – those same things still apply even in a much larger situation. It was also a crime scene, unlike a tornado, so we had to get people out and find survivors, but also secure the area.”
Citty says although it was chaotic, communication between the various groups and agencies was impressive, and over the next few days, the community provided an outpouring of support.
“All were willing to help, and people came out of the woodwork, whether they were first responders or people just protecting the scene. The kindness was overwhelming. I witnessed the worst things I’ve ever seen and the best things,” Citty says. “On that second day, I remember going down to the food station and finally getting something to eat. Some little lady came around and started rubbing my shoulders and thanking me, and it was the sweetest thing. The kindness has stayed with me.”
The hardest part to deal with for him, Citty says, was the children who lost their lives. But during the recovery process, one woman brought her child down to the scene to thank the first responders.
“All the first responders just wanted to touch this child. The child had one arm and one leg in a cast, but this was an example of one child who survived,” Citty says. “I think that’s why the mother brought the child down, because she knew we needed to see that. To see a life that had been saved makes you feel good, and it was powerful. It was probably the most emotional part of my career.”