April 19 will mark the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City. As usual when there’s a milestone anniversary of a tragedy, the news media provide stories looking back on the event, and on the present of the survivors.
Carla Wade, a WFAA/Channel 8 reporter who also anchors the station’s weekend-morning newscasts, had a particularly personal story to tell on Thursday night: Her father, Johnny Alan Wade, was among the 168 people killed in the bombing.
Wade told her story to longtime WFAA anchor John McCaa. She was working part-time at an Oklahoma City radio station when a woman called in asking if the station had heard anything about a bombing in the city. The next caller was in tears, she told McCaa.
“I remember being struck when they mentioned that there was a day-care center in the building,” Wade said. “That was the point that I definitely knew that it was the building that my father worked in, and that’s when I knew that I needed to check.”
Wade talks about going to the hospital, where she encountered one of her father’s co-workers. She says the colleague looked shell-shocked, and was simply shaking his head, “no.” Wade called her radio station for more info and told them not to sugarcoat it. She was told that a lot of people were going to die if they weren’t already dead. When she saw a picture of the building, she says, that’s when it became hard to have any belief that her father was still alive.
You can watch the whole clip, which is just under four minutes, by clicking here.
But Wade goes much deeper than she did on-air in a post she wrote for WFAA’s website.
“Each anniversary brings with it feelings of loss, anxiety and tremendous sadness,” she writes. “Typically, no matter where I'm living or where I seem to be at in my life emotionally, the weeks and days before April 19 are tense.”
But this anniversary, she says, has been weighing on her even more — not because of the landmark date, but because she is now close to the age her father was when he died. He was 42; she turned 41 this year.
“I had just turned 21 when my father was killed,” she writes. “At 21, he was already a father, a college graduate, and country boy who left a small Texas town of less than 3,000 people for California, where he began a career as civil engineer.”
When Wade was 21, she was attending the University of Oklahoma on a National Achievement scholarship. The family had only been in Oklahoma a few months before she moved into the dorm at Norman.
Although they were on good terms when they saw each other the Easter Sunday before he died, Wade says there were strains in their relationship.
“My father and I shared similar temperaments, both of us being disciplined, goal-oriented, and opinionated with perfectionist streaks,” she writes. “But where I am more reserved and introverted, he was outgoing and charismatic. Despite our similarities, we often clashed and being equally stubborn, neither of us would give in to the other's point of view.”
Wade writes about how much the bombing and her father’s death affected her life, about how it destroyed her sense of security, derailed her youthful focus on her career, affected relationships afterward and led her to feel a responsibility to be more compassionate and loving.
We don’t want to excerpt or paraphrase anything else Wade wrote, because it’s a powerful piece and it should be read in its full context. Again, you can check it out here.