20 Years Later

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[pullquote]In Life, You Never Know.”[/pullquote]

Ron Norick served as Oklahoma City mayor from 1987 to 1999. When he first heard about the attack and devastation downtown, Norick says he had to wonder why.

“The first feeling was disbelief of why someone would put a bomb in Oklahoma City. It was a nice, quiet city. There were questions of why and wondering about the possible motives, but at first, of course, we were all more interested in the rescue. Those questions were there in the background, however,” Norick says.

The police didn’t want the mayor on the scene right away, since no one was yet quite sure about what had happened; later, around 10 a.m., detectives picked up Norick, an hour after the bombing.

“My first official action as mayor was when Chief Gary Marrs [Fire Department Chief at the time] called about a command center meeting at about 11:30 [a.m.] with the police department, the DEA, FBI, fire department and other agencies. It was just north of the site. My responsibility was to get ahold of the governor and ask for the National Guard,” Norick says.

At the time, Gov. Frank Keating was in a secure shelter, but the National Guard was secured early in the proceedings. Norick served as the public spokesperson for the city.

“I got on the air and asked the citizens not to come down, because the space was needed for emergency efforts. And people obeyed that. It was heartwarming. They had understood that the mayor had gone on TV and asked them not to do something, and they didn’t do it,” Norick says.

Throughout the long recovery process, Norick says he was continually proud of the way Oklahoma City citizens reacted and pitched in to help.

“By Thursday afternoon (April 20) it got cold and rainy, in one of our surprise Oklahoma spring cold fronts, and there were things that the different teams needed,” Norick says. “The news media released the information about what was needed, and immediately people came to the perimeter gates and left things. Flashlights, booties for the dogs on the scene, homemade cookies and cakes and pizzas. It was just heartwarming. We finally had enough that we had to tell people it was enough. People just walked up to the gate and handed things to the National Guard, thanked them for their service and turned around and walked away. It was amazing.”

On a personal level, Norick says the bombing made him realize how valuable life is.

“It brought light to me obviously that in life, you never know. You better live as if every day could be your last. I think about how precious life is,” Norick says.

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