Local Responders Reflect on Oklahoma City Bombings

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FOX40 spoke to three local first responders who were deployed to assist with the Oklahoma City Bombings. The domestic terrorist attacks happened 20 years ago, this weekend.

On April 19, 1995, Mike Dumford was a young Sacramento firefighter. He was on duty when a blast across the country changed his life.

“There are certain things that happen in your life or career that are very vivid, and they don’t go away. They stay fresh memories all the time. This is certainly one of them for me,” Dumford said.  “7 o’clock is when it happened. We gathered around the TV in the kitchen. We were very surprised and everyone said were going. 15 minutes later, the phone rang, and off we went.”

Dumford was one of 72 Sacramento urban search and rescue, or “USAR”, team members that were deployed to Oklahoma City.

Back then, the team had only existed for a few years. Members said they were prepared, just not for this.

“At the time I thought we would be going to natural disasters, earthquakes and things like that,” now Deputy Fire Chief Michael Bradley said. “This was obviously a terrorist event. So we had no idea we would be deployed to a situation like that. It was hard for me.”

The team arrived just six hours after the blast. But by the time they landed, all rescue efforts were done.

They were there to recover bodies.

168 people were killed, and 680 were injured. There was a horrific scene for miles.

Weeks later, law enforcement chaplain Mindi Russell joined USAR at Ground Zero.

“The initial shock is overwhelming it is almost paralyzing,” Russell said. “I remember talking to an officer. All he kept doing was running in and grabbing somebody and running out. He was in shock.”

Sacramento was one of 11 outside USAR teams that assisted in the mission, a point of pride for members.

“I felt a mixture of horror and deep sadness. But at the same time, a sense of pride that Sacramento stepped forward and presented so many men and women to help out in Oklahoma City,” Bradley said.

Twenty years later, Dumford, now a captain for Sacramento Fire, said he would like to revisit Oklahoma.

He said he will remember it as a place that changed USAR forever.

“It made us a lot better and a lot more prepared, being the very first one,” Dumford said.

Since the Oklahoma City Bombings, Sacramento USAR team has assisted disasters, including 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, and Oso Mudslides.

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