Fire Chief of the Oklahoma City Fire Department at the time of the bombing, Gary Marrs, and Chaplain Jack Poe understood the stress first responders had to undergo during the crisis. They recount the difficulty each responder experienced after being so closely involved in the rescue operations.
During the rescue and recovery operation, search and rescue dogs were utilized. Like humans, the animals would get discouraged after long periods of not finding people who were alive. To counter the animals’ depression, handlers would play games with them, hiding toys, and sometimes people for the dogs to find.
Personal stories from first responders can be found in Chapter 5 of the Memorial Museum.
Mental Health and Clergy
The religious community plays a key role in providing support and fostering tolerance as people struggle with loss.
In the wake of a disaster, people struggle with sorrow, anger and the question “why?” Research indicates people all over the United States tend to increase attendance at their place of worship after disasters. Shared religious services to which the general public was invited were very helpful in Oklahoma City. The value of creating a document addressing a theological response to tragedy was discussed in Oklahoma City, but not implemented.
Project Heartland was established with funding from FEMA through the Center for Mental Health Services to assist Oklahoma City after the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. It provided crisis counseling, support groups, outreach and education for individuals affected by the bombing.
In 1995, Melissa Craft was a clinical nurse specialist. In this video, she provides insight into what the medical professional responders dealt with in the aftermath of the April 19, 1995, bombing.
Families, Survivors, & Rescue Workers
One unexpected source of healing was the creation of a new family – a family comprised of those most directly impacted by the bombing. Family members and survivors formed a bond over shared feelings and struggles which helped in the healing process. Initially, rescue workers were reluctant to become part of this new family. However, family members and survivors continued to reach out to this group, including baking thousands of cookies, each accompanied by a note expressing how much they appreciated them.Since then, these three entities, family members, survivors and rescue workers, have come together many times and remain a dedicated group in the progress of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.