- Associated Press - Sunday, May 4, 2014

CACHE, Okla. (AP) - Students in the Cache Public Schools Talented and Gifted (TAG) program are studying the ins and outs of both man-made and natural disasters.

The students in grades 5-8 are studying two key disasters, both in Oklahoma: the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995, and last year’s Moore tornado. Some 168 people were killed in the Oklahoma City bombing nearly 20 years ago and 24 lives were lost in the Moore tornado.

As part of their study of the Oklahoma City bombing, the TAG students took a field trip to the Oklahoma National Museum and Memorial on the former site of the bombed downtown building.

“It had as much emotional impact on the teachers who attended as it did on the students,” Nolan Watson, Cache Middle School teacher and adviser of the TAG program, told The Lawton Constitution (https://bit.ly/1bmgJ2p).

The TAG students described what they learned about the Oklahoma City bombing, which occurred a few years before they were born, through the field trip and other research they are conducting on the worst man-made disaster in Oklahoma history.

Eighth-grader Madison Marshall said she learned a lot about Timothy McVeigh, who was executed for his part in the bombing.

“He was a homegrown terrorist,” she said.

Kade Klemmer, a seventh-grader, said the rental truck that McVeigh used in the bombing was twisted by the explosion but that parts from that vehicle were found and pieced back together.

“I thought it was incredible they could find and match the (rear) bumper and trailer hitch to the truck even though they were lost,” he said.

McVeigh was arrested by an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper about 90 minutes after the bombing following a traffic stop on Interstate 35 near Perry. McVeigh was arrested on complaints of driving without a license plate and unlawfully carrying a weapon.

“It was almost by accident McVeigh was caught due to the missing license plate and his possession of a gun,” said 8th-grader Caleb Fry.

Co-conspirator Terry Nichols was arrested near his home in Herington, Kan., days later.

Many of the 168 victims of the bombing were children in the day care center inside the Murrah Federal Building. Etched in one student’s mind are efforts to rescue them.

“I see a lot of images of firefighters holding children and trying to save their lives,” Fry said.

Also noted by the students were the boxes at the day care with children’s photos and personal belongings that were found and removed following the bombing.

“It touched all of us,” Watson said.

One of the displays at the museum includes a “First Person” program from Terri (Shawn) Talley, who was in the building the day of the bombing and survived to tell her account of that day’s events.

“I thought the ‘First Person’ program was interesting,” said 8th-grader Abby Phillis. “Most of us were not born at that time. Even though this is set in a museum, it brings out the reality of terrorism.”

Talley noted that the federal government wanted her to testify at McVeigh’s trial, but she declined because she believed there wasn’t a need for her to do so.

Eighth-grader Madison Kirkland said the “First Person” told another reality story about that day.

“She said she couldn’t breathe and had rubble piled on her,” Kirkland said. “She said she couldn’t scream for help and was lucky that firefighters could see her through a wall and then rescue her.”

Kirkland said the survivor also noted that she learned terrorism could happen to anyone in the United States.

Sixth-grader McKenzie Bookout said the “First Person” told another survivor story.

“It’s interesting that she wrapped her feet around a chair to save her own life,” Bookout said. “When she went down, it was a safe fall.”

Ava Swanson, another 6th-grader, talked about the “reflection pool” depicting the minute the bomb went off at 9:02 a.m. and black walls on both sides of that timeline - 9:01 a.m. and 9:03 a.m. Swanson also reported on firefighters rescuing a victim.

“I thought it was interesting they stayed with her even though there was a second bomb threat which led to another evacuation,” he said.

Fry said the firefighters were magnificent in their actions in rescuing victims.

“They were determined not to leave and formed an attachment to the victims,” he said.

Another 8th-grader, Brooke Parker, said the memorial was a beautiful sight - both in looks and feel.

“It was really pretty,” she said. “The water and trees make it seem peaceful.”

Fifth-grader Emily Frees also described the beauty of the memorial.

“I thought it was very nice (in their honor) because they all lost their lives to two people,” she said. “I felt the bombing affected all of Oklahoma as it was close to home.”

Watson said each room of the museum and memorial features flat screen TVs that replay the events of the day of the bombing and its aftermath.

Fry also described the memorial’s wall exhibit.

“Visitors press their hands against it, but the image disappears,” he said. “It represented lives.”

Eighth-grader Pete Lyamport said the entire museum and memorial complex was very impressive - particularly the wall.

“The vibe in the memorial became real at the wall,” he said. “And the museum has a lot of stuff from the day of the bombing, including parking tickets, and pieces of concrete from the building.”

In addition to the study of the Oklahoma City bombing and tour of the museum and memorial, the students are also researching the Moore tornado of May 2013. They recently toured the National Weather Service office in Norman to learn about the science of tornadoes. They also toured the nearby city of Moore to view recovery efforts of nearly a year later.


Information from: The Lawton Constitution, https://www.swoknews.com

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