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'Whatever it was, it was awfully cruel'

By Pat Gilliland and Ellie Sutter

April 20, 1995

Jim Hargrove, who works in the office of the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, said he and his co-workers tied curtains together to escape from their offices in the southeast corner of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building's third floor.

"I was in the building when it happened. It just fell on my head," Hargrove said.

"The most concerning thing about my office is ... there is an office to the right of me and an office to the left of me, and (after the explosion) there was just nothing there. It was bare," Hargrove said.

"I looked out from my building which was on the south side, ...

and normally couldn't see anything (except offices), and there was nothing (no offices).

"I could see my car out on the parking lot, on fire. " After determining his employees were safe, Hargrove still heard the voice of someone in distress.

It turned out "someone fell from the seventh floor to the third floor, but we were able to get him out," Hargrove said.

He said the workers lowered themselves through windows, using curtains they had tied together.

Hargrove and co-worker Sam Patterson said they were puzzled by the blast.

"I can't believe it. Whatever it was, it was awfully cruel," Hargrove said.

They said there was nothing in the building to have caused it to be blown up.

"Secret Service is on the top floor. The rest are just general offices. Social Security was on the first floor," Hargrove said.

"And the VA," Patterson added.

Patterson said the explosion wasn't really loud - it was more of a muffled noise. But immediately after the explosion, he could see clear through the building and out the other side.

"The parking facility across the street - all the 1 cars - they looked like they were all on fire," he said.

Hargrove and Patterson said they could hardly believe their good fortune.

"I am so thankful to God. To look at it, I would have never thought you could survive," Hargrove said. Although the ceiling caved in, the floor above it held.

Hargrove's wife, Katie, came from Norman to pick him up and helped take some of the injured people to the Norman Regional Hospital.

Hargrove said he was making calls from his home Wednesday afternoon to find out the status of his work schedule for the rest of the week.

"Since nothing burned, I don't know how long it will be before we can go in to salvage things," he said.

He thinks his office might operate out of the Dallas office and from workers' homes for a while.

Hargrove said the explosion, which he at first thought was an earthquake, came without warning.

"We had no warning, no indications at all. We've had several times in 10 years the building has been evacuated because of fire alarms or bomb threats. " But he said he's never seen anything like this.

Everyone from his office made it out safely, with only minor injuries.

2005 The Oklahoman, NEWS 9 and Oklahoma City National Memorial.
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