The firefighter who appears in an indelible image that now hangs in the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum.
After a 31-year career as an Oklahoma City firefighter, Chris Fields reminisces about the day that changed his life forever — April 19, 1995 — the day of the Oklahoma City bombing, which claimed the lives of 168 victims.
“I was at Fire Station Number 5 at N.W. 22nd and Broadway. I felt it. We were standing in the station around the kitchen. We heard the boom and felt the station rattle. We looked outside and saw the plume of smoke and self dispatched ourselves,” Fields tells KFOR News.
When first responders rolling up to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, they had no idea the magnitude of destruction.
“The way that building is sheared off and stuff was still floating down, I can remember walking on glass,” Fields continued. “I don’t know when we were walking on pavement. It was just debris, glass, paper, all sorts of things.”
A faithful moment was about to unfold — Fields’ path crossed with an Oklahoma City police sergeant.
“He said, ‘I have a critical infant.’ My mom said God’s hand was in it because I said, ‘I’ll take her,’” the now fire captain said.
As Fields cradled the baby, the father of two couldn’t help but ache for a mother he did not know.
“I’m thinking, wow, somebody’s world is about to turn upside down today. It’s still tough to talk about. It’s always worse when it involves a child. When you have kids, it affects you a little more,” he said.
That child was the 1-year-old daughter of Aren Almon Kok.
“Somebody was about to find out they lost a child and that somebody was me. At the time, he didn’t know but he still cared enough to know that somebody out there, their lives are about to change,” she told KFOR News.
Unknown to Fields, someone had captured that tender moment and this photo would become an international symbol for the bombing and a rallying cry for justice. For months, it was plastered magazine covers across the U.S.
“It was very hard to go to stores because they are in the check out aisle. It was always there. It was devastating. Everybody had seen my daughter dead. And that’s all she became to them. She was a symbol. She was the girl in the fireman’s arms. But she was a real person and that got left behind,” Almon Kok remembered.
“I struggled with it for a long time. I didn’t like being singled out. There were a lot of heroes that day. Everybody from people digging, bringing socks. It was crazy the response of the citizens,” Fields said.
Field’s life became a challenge. He said he didn’t want to “lay all that” on his family — but it built up causing him a lot of problems.
Years of counseling for PTSD and a sturdy faith helped him conquer the demons of April 19, 1995.
“I don’t think I would be the husband and father I am today if it wasn’t for the things I’ve gone through,” he told KFOR News.
Through all the difficulties and through the healing Almon Kok said she wishes all the victims that day could have come into contact with Fields.
“We came out of it with a good friendship and our families are close. I think if everyone would have had a Chris Fields then they would have made it through the bombing a lot easier, like I did,” Almon Kok tells KFOR News.
After 31 years, Chris Fields is retiring to begin the next chapter.
“That’s my plan to embrace life, treasure every minute. It’s all roses from here,” he said.
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