From the Worldwide Faith News archives


Date 05 May 1996 13:18:51


                          by Alexa Smith 
OKLAHOMA CITY--Brian Snyder says it is hard to remember exactly what 
happened on the morning of April 19. 
     He was at the desk of the downtown branch of Oklahoma City's public 
library, located about half a block away from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal 
     There was a boom.  The light casements fell.  The steel doorway 
twisted and collapsed.  And then there were tremors,  moving outward from 
the edge of the city's downtown for, residents say, nearly 40 miles. 
     "It was over before I had time to be scared. ... I was shocked," said 
the 25-year-old member of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church, who does not 
consider himself a victim of the bombing since he was uninjured. 
     Snyder is confused by the kind of malice that went into building and 
igniting the bomb.  And, he said, he is confused by the kind of hatred that 
can literally drive people crazy, if speculation about what motivated the 
bombing is true. 
     He is not alone in puzzling over what life will be like after the 
     Retired Presbyterian minister the Rev. Gene Hodges of Norman, Okla., 
said the explosion has left him lonely.  His 54-year-old son, Gene, died in 
the Murrah building, leaving behind his wife and four children. 
     "I feel terribly lonely, not angry at all. Not revengeful," said 
Hodges, who learned of the explosion on television.  "He was my only child, 
my only son, and we were very close." 
     Hodges, 82, said he will live the rest of his life quietly.  But the 
bombing has only reinforced his conviction that each individual life 
matters -- what goals are set, what choices are made.  "We should have 
learned [from the bombing] that it's awfully, terribly important what 
people believe in. 
     "They're gonna believe in something," Hodges said, insisting that 
Christian witness offers an alternative to vengeance, greed and abdicating 
the responsibility that goes with having personal rights.  
      Goodness, he said, cannot be legislated "into people."  They must 
learn it for themselves. 
     "I'd give anything, of course, if it were possible for me to take 
Gene's place.  I've had my time in life. ... He had so much to look forward 
to," said Hodges. 
     Thirty-five employees in the Office of Housing and Urban Development 
(HUD) were killed. Three others lost an eye.  Presbyterian Sara Maxwell, 
also a HUD employee, was in a training session on another floor in the 
federal building's southwest corner -- the corner that did not collapse in 
the explosion. 
     "The [partition-style] training room walls didn't fall down" Maxwell 
said, though she was thrown to the floor in the blast.  "We didn't know 
what happened," she said, adding that when she and her colleagues exited 
the building by a stairwell, the southwest corner was intact. 
     "I don't feel anger ...  dismay' would be a better word," Maxwell told 
the Presbyterian News Service.  "I haven't ever been the type of person to 
get angry at God.  I never have," she added.  Maxwell said she accepts as a 
mystery why some are spared while others die -- an inexplicable dilemma she 
remembers her soldier-uncle recounting. 
     Maxwell is back at work part-time now in a temporary HUD office, 
though many HUD employees will not return until mid-August. "I'm doing as 
well as can be expected.  I talk with a lot of friends at my church, my 
minister, friends I grew up with in Illinois," she said, adding that 
resuming a regular routine helps. 
      "I just know he [God] is the supreme power ... not that he was the 
one who caused the explosion. But I think he manages his flock to the best 
end now that it has happened," said Maxwell, who is a member of First 
Presbyterian Church in downtown Oklahoma City. 
     Snyder said he is one of a number of people leaving Oklahoma City in 
the next few months.  He intended to move anyway ... but the bombing has 
motivated Snyder and a number of others to leave sooner. 
     "It all feels tainted to me. ... If I had real deep connections, I 
might be more willing to stick it out," said Snyder, who is heading east to 
be closer to family.  He says that anytime he mentions living in Oklahoma 
City, he'll inevitably be asked about the bombing. 
     What has puzzled Snyder in the aftermath of the bombing is the buses 
driving by with tourists -- like grandmothers with their grandchildren -- 
stopping to snap pictures of each other near Murrah building rubble.  
     Now back at the library desk, Snyder is relieved the Murrah building 
is gone.  It was, he said, becoming an "eerie" reminder -- though it has 
sensitized him to what he calls his American arrogance -- 
 that though others in the world may have to cope with violence, it could 
never happen here. 
     "It's amazing what people get used to ... and what [they] never get 
used to."  

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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