Lessons Learned

Remember to Care for Those Who are Doing the Caring

At the time of the bombing, the implications of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) weren’t understood as well as they are today. First responders, medical personnel, survivors and everyone involved were subjected to traumatic experiences – and many did not get the immediate counseling and help they needed.

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 experienced during the crisis.

Even the search and rescue dogs that helped find survivors in the aftermath would get discouraged after long periods of not finding people who were alive – much like their human counterparts. To counter this, handlers would play games with them, hiding toys – and sometimes people – for the dogs to find. More personal stories from first responders can be found in Chapter 5 of the Memorial Museum.

Help from Above

Whether you knew someone who was killed or injured, survived the event themselves, or escaped direct involvement, the Oklahoma City bombing shook all of us to our core. It forever altered our understanding of our world. Many sought solace and healing in their religious communities. Large services were held for the public at large – and played an important part in finding meaning and a path forward for the community.

Mental Health Care

Project Heartland was established with funding from FEMA through the Center for Mental Health Services to assist Oklahoma City after the bombing. It provided crisis counseling, support groups, outreach and education for individuals affected by the bombing.

In 1995, Melissa Craft was a clinical nurse specialist who assisted in the aftermath of the bombing.
A New Family Is Formed

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 and first responders were reluctant to become part of this family, but family members and survivors continued to reach out to them, baking thousands of cookies, each accompanied by a note expressing how much they appreciated them.

Since then, these three entities – family members, survivors and first responders – have come together many times, and remain dedicated stakeholders in the mission of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.

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