MIAMI — The closer FBI Special Agent Les Farris got to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, the more he was able to realize the impact of the April 19, 2005 bombing.
“You’d see cars with the windows blown out, even two or three blocks away,” Farris told the Miami News-Record in a 2000 interview.
Sunday, April 19 marks the 25th anniversary of the bombing, which was perpetrated by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols and killed 168, injured 680 and destroyed one-third of the building.
Remembrance ceremonies at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum has been cancelled due to COVID-19.
Instead, the Memorial is producing an hour-long ceremony that includes 168 seconds of silence and the reading of the victims' names.
It will be televised in Oklahoma City and Tulsa (KOTV, KTUL, KJRH and Fox23) Sunday morning as well as on the Memorial website (www.memorialmuseum.com) and Facebook.
Farris, who retired from the FBI in 1998 and died in 2018, said in the MNR interview that the raw emotions of the scene was impossible to convey to anyone who was not there.
“The feeling you got as you walked closer to the bomb site, it was kind of like sacred ground,” he said. “You realized the severity of losses of the families that suffered there. You feel an empathy for them. Some of them lost children, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters.”
The first three days of the four weeks he was there, he interviewed witnesses at the command post.
“It really affected Les,” said his widow, Ruth Ann. “It was just a horrible thing to see. He really didn't talk about it very much because it was emotional for him.
“The thing I do remember is he was so impressed with the people that came to help out. He talked about the ladies who always had a bite to eat and a drink for them all hours of the day and night.”
Les Farris joined the FBI in 1967. After training in Washington, D.C. and Quantico, Virginia, he was assigned to the Denver Division.
He later transferred to the Oklahoma City Division, and eventually to the Miami Resident Agency.
Within a 16-block radius of the Murrah Building, 324 other buildings were either destroyed or damaged, shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings and destroyed or damaged 86 cars.
The total damage was estimated at $652 million.
Until the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C, Oklahoma City was the deadliest terrorist attack in American history and still is the deadliest incident of domestic terrorism.
McVeigh was stopped 90 minutes after the explosion by Charlie Hanger of the Oklahoma Highway Patrol for driving without a license plate. McVeigh was arrested for possessing illegal weapons.
The attack at 9:03 a.m. came on the second anniversary of the massive fire that ended the Branch Davidian siege in Waco, Texas.
He developed a dislike for the U.S. federal government following the Ruby Ridge incident in 1992 and Waco a year later.
McVeigh and Nichols were tried and convicted in 1997.
On June 11, 2001, McVeigh was executed by lethal injection and Nichols received a sentence of life in prison in 2004.