From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 13:05:02


                          by Alexa Smith 
LOUISVILLE, Ky.--Waiting is frustrating for everyone in Oklahoma City now. 
     "There [are] going to be a lot of dead people," says the Rev. Mike 
Anderson, senior pastor of the Westminster Presbyterian Church. " ... And 
these people [families] have waited a long time to hear bad news." 
     He paused.  "In the first 70 hours, there was hope.  It's kind of like 
a painful, slow, torturous death. ... And we're relatively certain [missing 
people] are dead at this stage," Anderson said, adding that plunging 
temperatures would have caused hypothermia by now among possible survivors. 
     The Rev. Pat Kennedy of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church is now calling 
Presbyterian congregations across Indian Nations Presbytery to compile 
lists of those who are missing, dead or injured. 
     At press time, one member of the First Presbyterian Church of 
Chandler, Okla., attorney Susan Jane Ferrell, 37, was confirmed among those 
killed. Gene Hodges Jr., 54, of Memorial Presbyterian Church in Norman, 
Okla, the son of retired Presbyterian pastor the Rev. T. Gene Hodges, also 
of Norman, is also dead. 
     Family members await news at a downtown Christian church.  More 
extended family members of Presbyterians are known to be among the missing 
as well as among the injured now in hospitals. 
     Anderson said, "We're dealing with everything.  Death.  The missing 
and dying.  Others are shell-shocked from injuries or from witnessing 
injuries. ... 
     "Some of these people are very, very shattered.  These things go on 
for months, even years," said Anderson, noting that others are coping with 
having just left the building prior to the explosion of the car bomb.  And 
some survived while watching family members or friends die, Anderson said, 
including one man whose infant daughter was torn from his arms in the 
     Small support groups are operating in many Oklahoma City churches, 
Presbyterian pastors say, and many clergy took immediate training by staff 
of the National Organization for Victim Assistance (NOVA) of Washington, 
D.C., who arrived in the city the same day the bomb exploded.  NOVA trained 
over 1,000 professionals -- including teachers, therapists, cops and clergy 
-- in seminars held at First Presbyterian Church. 
     "With an earthquake, a flood, a tornado, you can roll up your sleeves 
and get to work," said Ann Brackett, interim executive of the presbytery, 
who says many who are not rescue workers or health professionals feel 
helpless and frustrated right now.  But clergy and mental health 
professionals are readying for the long haul. 
     "So much of what we are going to be dealing with is the spiritual and 
emotional aspects of people's lives," she said, distress that is not always 
visible on the surface. 
     The Rev. Mark Heaney, associate pastor of First Church, agrees. 
"We're still in kind of a shock phase ... unbelief at what's happened, 
trying to make some kind of sense out of it," said Heaney, who said staff 
at First Church are trying to model how to express feelings like anger and 
grief for parishioners. 
     Clergy have begun special services for people to begin talking about 
what they've seen and felt. And they have been called upon by their own 
congregations as well as by others. 
      Anderson has been helping groups process what they've seen over the 
past five days, including downtown business and news staffs.  "It's a very 
vicious thing to watch these young children bleed to death," he told the 
Presbyterian News Service.  "It's too much pressure; there's been a lack of 
     Kennedy, who lives just 15 blocks from the bomb site and whose house 
shook in the blast,  says his Thursday morning Bible study just naturally 
shifted to a time for sharing experiences and tears.  He said many have 
been moved by telephone calls, prayers and blood donations from 
Presbyterians across the country.  "There's caring coming in so many ways. 
 ... It's been helpful to me, to the congregation," he said. 

For more information contact Presbyterian News Service
  Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY 40202
  phone 502-569-5504            fax 502-569-8073  
  E-mail   Web page: 


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