Coping with tragedy's aftermath

July 13, 2000
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The eyes of the nation still focus on the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial.
OKLAHOMA CITY, OK — It’s been over five years since the single worst act of domestic terrorism tore the hearts out of Oklahomans and the rest of the country. The bombing of the Edward P. Murrah building and the deaths of 168 innocent people still have a hold on the citizens and businesspeople of Oklahoma City — including many hvacr contractors who were personally affected.

“I was standing right near where my business is now and I thought we had been bombed. I saw this big mushroom cloud go up over the city,” said Claude Drabek, owner of Drabek & Hill Inc.

“All of us lost someone we knew. One of my customer’s parents were down there getting information about Social Security and they both died. We’ll probably never outlive it.”

It struck a very personal note with David Kirkpatrick, vice president of Industrial Sheet Metal, Inc.

One of Kirkpatrick’s high school sweethearts is the mother of Baylee Almon, whose lifeless body in the arms of a fire rescue worker was captured in a photograph that became an indelible symbol of the tragedy.

“The aftermath helped pull Oklahoma City together,” added Dave Henderson of the J.R. Henderson Co. “We were a testimony to strength for the nation to see. We were proud to be Oklahomans.”

The citizens of Oklahoma City continue to struggle to put the tragedy in perspective and rebuild their lives. Oklahoma City is enjoying a steady growth rate in the commercial and residential markets. The unemployment rate in Oklahoma hovers around 3%, the lowest rate since unemployment records were kept.

The News paid a visit to this community to see how contractors have moved on with their lives and their businesses since that April day in 1995. In the first of a three-part series, we profile some of the contractors of Oklahoma City and examine the issues they face in today’s economy.

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