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Blast Devastates Day-Care Center

April 19, 1995

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The blast occurred at the start of the work day, as parents were dropping off their youngsters at the day-care center in the federal building. Before the smoke had cleared, Heather Taylor, an emergency worker, had tagged the feet of 17 children at the morgue.

Two were burned beyond recognition. The bodies of the rest, up to 7 years old, were mangled.

Ten to 20 other children were unaccounted for late in the day. Taylor knew of only two who had survived. One was in surgery, the other in intensive care.

``The day-care center is totally gone,″ said Dr. Carl Spengler, who helped Taylor with the victims.

It was on the second floor of the nine-story Albert Murrah Building, just above the spot where the car bomb exploded. Toys and games were scattered amid broken glass and other debris on the street.

A nearby YMCA also had a day-care center.

``It was really terrible with the (YMCA) day-care center,″ said state Rep. Kevin Cox, who was a half-block away when the 9 a.m. blast occurred. ``Babies were crying and screaming, with blood and plaster and insulation on their bodies.″

TV stations broadcast a description of an injured red-headed toddler, asking for her parents to contact the hospital because she needed surgery. It wasn’t clear which day-care center she had been taken from, nor if her parents were among the victims.

``At the time it blew up, the place (in the federal building) should have been full″ with parents dropping off their children, Spengler said.

The doctor said all 17 children were killed at the day-care center at the federal building.

However, Faith Wohl, director of General Services Administration’s Office of Workplace Initiatives in Washington, said that wasn’t immediately clear. She said it is common for children to be in the building with families visiting federal agencies.

Wohl said 41 children were enrolled in the day-care program, with about 30 attending on any given day. ``We don’t know yet, and may never know, how many children were there today,″ she said in a telephone interview.

One woman who survived the blast stood outside the building, screaming for her child. Rescuers ushered her away just before they brought out a victim they believed to be her dead son.

Parents wearing a piece of masking tape bearing the last name of the child they hoped to find waited for word at Children’s Hospital of Oklahoma.

Wanda McNeely searched frantically for her 6-month-old grandson’s name on the list of the injured at Children’s Hospital. After checking with three hospitals, McNeely decided to go to the morgue at St. Anthony Hospital.

``We’re going to go and see if we can identify a body,″ she said. ``We’ve checked all the lists, now we’re going to the other side.″

George Young, chaplain at St. Anthony Hospital, sat on a bench holding a small blond girl with bandages on her face.

``I’ve seen five or six children seriously injured,″ Young said. ``The children were 18 months to 4 or 5 years of age. A lot of them had been hurt by flying glass. One little boy was in shock.″

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EDITORS: Julia Prodis is the AP’s Southwest Regional reporter, based in Dallas.

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