The Field of Empty Chairs, a reminder of each life lost. In the background: The Reflecting Pool with a Gate of Time to the right. Photo by Bruce Trimble
It was a normal Wednesday morning under a clear blue Oklahoma City sky on April 19, 1995. Workers made their way to offices, dropped off children at the building’s day-care center, perhaps poured themselves a cup of coffee to get a jump-start on their day. Then, at 9:02, America’s innocence changed forever when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was bombed, killing 168 people and injuring more than 500.
How could such a horrific thing happen on American soil? Timothy McVeigh, a former decorated United States Army soldier, claimed that the bombing was revenge for “what the U.S. government did at Waco and Ruby Ridge.” McVeigh and accomplice Terry Nichols, used readily available toxic industrial chemicals, ammonium nitrate, an agricultural fertilizer, and nitromethane, a highly volatile motor-racing fuel, to accomplish their despicable deed.
The attackers parked a rented Ryder truck in a loading area with a timer set to explode about 5,000 pounds of the highly combustible material. The explosion resulted in the worst terrorist attack on United States soil prior to the September 11, 2001 attacks. McVeigh was executed and accomplice Terry Nichols was sentenced to life in prison. A third party, Michael Fortier received a 12-year prison sentence plus a $200,000 fine for failure to warn authorities about the attack.
The blast tore away more than a third of the Murrah Building, but destroyed the entire building. In addition, fourteen buildings in the vicinity had to be torn down due to extensive destruction and another 312 buildings within a sixteen-block radius were damaged.
More than 12,000 people participated in relief and rescue work, including twenty-four canine units. Prompt investigation gave vital clues to the complexity of the crime and early leads on a suspect and accomplices led to extraordinarily quick arrests. Visitors watch news clips and special bulletins televised from around the world.
From April 20 to May 4, 1995 rescue and recovery operations poured into the area. Professional rescue workers, volunteers and canine units from all over the country clawed through the rubble to help dig out survivors and recover the dead. In the children’s day-care center directly above the mobile bomb, devastation was horrific. Upper floors collapsed onto those beneath them, crushing everyone and everything below.
Although the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was born of hatred and violence, visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum is an uplifting experience. Poignant sights and artifacts of the bombing are in plain view, but also evident is what this sacred ground has become: a monument of hope and faith, of remembrance of loved ones lost, of human spirits rising above this inhumane act.
Three distinct components comprise the memorial: the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial, dedicated on April 19, 2000, the fifth anniversary of the attack; the Memorial Museum, dedicated one year later, April 19, 2001; the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, a concept founded by families and survivors during the writing of the Mission Statement in 1995.
Wandering the grounds where the building once stood, visitors soon see that every exhibit is a vital symbol of this experience. One of the most poignant, the Field of Empty Chairs is a reminder of each life lost. The chairs, including nineteen smaller chairs representing the children who died, placed in nine rows, represent the nine floors of the building. Made of bronze, stone and glass, the chairs are placed in the row according to what floor the person was working or visiting when killed.
Carol Buchanan’s Gold Under Ice, set in the 1860's, draws the reader into the lives of Dan Stark, Martha, the woman he loves, and her children. Daniel and Martha have entered into a common-law marriage, not knowing where her missing, abusive husband is, or whether he is still alive.
Dan has come to the wilds of Montana Territory to work the gold mines in order to help his New York family, his widowed mother and his siblings, recover from a devastating and humiliating financial setback. A lawyer, he leaves his New York practice, but finds his knowledge of the law an asset in Alder Gulch, a rough, lawless town with few comforts. Life is hard, not only contending with harsh weather, but dealing with the insanity of gold fever.
Dan’s autocratic grandfather dictates Dan must return to New York with his accumulated gold and resume the family law practice. He hasn’t enough gold to both repay the bank and reinstate his New York family’s financial situation. Dan is torn between his New York family who is relying on him, and his Alder Gulch family and their safety in his absence. He promises to return to Alder Gulch, but they all know any number of things could prevent that from happening.
In order to secure his own future, he returns to New York, a trip that takes several weeks by stage coach and train, carrying the gold he has accumulated.
On the surface, the difference between Montana Territory and New York in the 1860's is stark. Dan is determined to retain custody of his gold, denying the bank control of it. Instead, he meets with an old friend who tutors him in the ways of Wall Street and gold trading. He finds life in New York as threatening as in the wilds of Montana Territory and fights for his life on many levels.
Gold Under Ice, available both in print and ebook format, is a compelling novel. Buchanan’s impeccable research not only entertains, but educates. Her characters breathe life into the story as it carries the reader along with Dan’s compelling need to make things right for both families. It kept me pressing the “page turn” on my Kindle long into the night.
Gold Under Ice is a sequel to God’s Thunderbolt:The Vigilantes of Montana, winner of Western Writers of America’s SPUR award. Each book is a satisfying read and stands alone. Recently released, The Devil in the Bottle, is the next in the series. For more information about the author, visit http://www.swanrange.com/
Settler’s Chase by D. H. Eraldi brings the Old West to life. Eraldi’s rich descriptions of people, Montana’s landscape and bitter winter weather, transport the reader to this 1880's gritty time and place.
Sett Foster’s plan of setting a trap in a box canyon for wild horses was falling nicely into place. He’d break these horses and sell them for a good price to the Army. But suddenly a strange sight comes into view. A spotted Indian pony happens along, causing a disturbance among the small wild herd. But wait, the pony is wearing a crude saddle of some sort with a blanket flopping off to the side. As Sett watches the horses he almost has trapped run away in fright, he spots a cradle board swinging from the saddle with a tiny face peeking out of the tight laces.
In the meantime, Sett’s half Blackfeet/half white wife, Ria, is at their cabin alone, struggling with yet another miscarriage. Heartbroken, she knows she will never bear Sett’s child.
When Sett returns to their cabin with the infant, Ria is thrilled. Finally, a child! Sett knows it isn’t as easy as that. This is a white child and people will be looking for it. Stricken with more dashed hopes, Ria obeys her husband and they set out for the closest town to find the child’s family. She fiercely protects the baby and forms a strong bond; so strong, Sett dreads the time when she’ll have to relinquish the child. It’s an arduous trip with the weather turning colder and threatening snow.
Finally arriving in town, they find doing the right thing doesn’t always bring the desired results. Although they are met with kindness by some, others are suspicious and hostile toward Ria. Sett Foster’s tainted background arouses suspicion. The baby’s family has offered a reward for his safe return and there are townspeople who will stop at nothing to get that reward money.
Settler’s Chase is a fine western and a WILLA Literary Award Finalist. The author excels in portraying realistic, believable characters and bringing landscapes to life. I could feel the bitter cold during the desperate chase into the Montana wilderness.
Settler’s Chase is a sequel to Settler’s Law, another well-written and suspenseful western. Both novels, published some years apart, stand alone. For more information about the author, visit visit www.eraldi.net.
I am the author of three novels, Tenderfoot, McClellan's Bluff and Rosemount, and 400+ articles that have appeared in travel magazines and newspapers. I live with my husband, Bruce, on five wooded acres on Camano Island, Washington.