[pullquote]I Would Have Expected Nothing Less.”[/pullquote]
Firefighter Keith Bryant, who is now the Oklahoma City fire chief, was called in from off-duty on April 19, 1995, and first arrived on the scene downtown at noon. Bryant says that although he had a million questions about what was going on, he had to focus on the work at hand.
“In Oklahoma, we’re used to responding to large-scale events with natural disasters. We’re trained to respond to these types of events, but this was obviously different since it was a domestic act of terrorism. Your mind is prepared to respond, but the twist was that it was terrorism,” he says. “But still, you had a job to do.”
Bryant says he did everything from transporting needed tools and equipment to the scene to performing searches with groups in different parts of the destruction. Like Citty and many of the survivors, Bryant says he got through the initial drama and terror by taking one step at a time.
“First responders aren’t robotic – we’re human, of course – but we’re focused on the job. After the first day or so, it became a recovery process, and we felt bad about that. Everybody I talked to out there wished we could have saved more people,” Bryant says.
The attention the Oklahoma City Fire Department received after the event still makes Bryant feel a little uncomfortable – to him, the firefighters risking their lives and performing grueling and emotional work were just doing what they were supposed to do.
“That event did not define the Oklahoma City community or the fire department. I am proud of the way the department responded, but I would have expected nothing less from the department,” Bryant says.
Bryant echoed a common sentiment that Oklahoma City is blossoming now in some part due to the effects of its response to the attack 20 years ago.
“Where we are now as a city is incredible. As a lifelong citizen of the city, I have to be proud of that. We have the ability to rally around each other and move forward in a better way, and that’s incredible. It’s one of the best untold stories of Oklahoma City. We’re seeing the physical results now,” Bryant says.