It's been a decade, but widow struggles daily with memory of Oklahoma bombing - NewsOn6.com - Tulsa, OK - News, Weather, Video and Sports - KOTV.com |

It's been a decade, but widow struggles daily with memory of Oklahoma bombing

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WICHITA, Kan. (AP) _ She doesn't expect anybody to understand this.

It's hard enough to explain to herself.

But the truth is, 10 years after Timothy McVeigh's rental truck blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City, killing her husband, Rick, and 167 others, Tina Tomlin still hasn't been able to get beyond it.

To ``move on.''

For her, ``there is no moving on,'' said Tomlin, a Hutchinson native who lives in Yukon, Okla., near Oklahoma City. ``You just survive it.

``And that's being honest.''

She was talking with Rick, who worked for the U.S. Department of Transportation, on the telephone at 9:02 a.m. on April 19, 1995, when the truck - parked directly below Rick's fourth-floor office window - exploded.

He was 46 years old.

They met in Hutchinson and fell in love right away. They were married for 25 years.

Ten years after the bombing, Tomlin still hasn't been able to return to work, do any gardening, or even cook a meal for herself.

``There's no sense in cooking just for me,'' she said.

Ten years, and this year is harder than all the rest, she said.

``I can't explain it,'' she said.

A week of activities begins Sunday in Oklahoma City to observe the bombing's 10th anniversary.

Tomlin said she won't attend Tuesday's memorial service, nor the opening that day of a new exhibit at the memorial's museum, which is intended to honor the resilience of the survivors and the victims' families.

She and her two grown sons, Richard and Jeremy, plan to visit Rick's chair at the memorial site Tuesday, place a wreath of flowers upon it, say their own prayers and go home.

``It's all about the survivors this year, and to me a memorial is for the people who have died,'' Tomlin said.

Tomlin is a member of a group of widows that meets every so often. Eight of them are widows of bombing victims. Only one has shown signs of taking a step forward, she said.

That widow plans to attend Tuesday's memorial service. It will be the first time she has attended one.

``That's her step, attending a service,'' Tomlin said.

Another widow in the group tried to go back to college, Tomlin said. She quit after two weeks because she couldn't remember anything she read.

Tomlin said her own concentration is gone. She tried years ago to return to her job at a photo shop, a job she loved because it involved artistic work like re-touching photos. But when she went to the break room where she had called her husband on the telephone the morning of the bombing, she lost it.

``The walls were closing in on me, and the phone I was talking to him on was floating toward me. I couldn't handle being there,'' she said.

``People don't understand. It's hard. You take it one day at a time.

``It's like a 12-step program,'' she said, laughing.

Tomlin's conversation is full of laughter, much of it emerging from her self-deprecating sense humor.

She also laughs at fun memories of life with Rick and her family, including Jeremy, 31, a critical-care paramedic who lives 10 miles away from her, and Richard, 34, who lives in Houston.

But laughter can't heal everything.

``My memory is just really shot,'' Tomlin said. ``Mentally I'm not capable of working anymore. I pretty much live just here in my house.''

She doesn't go to movies. She finds them vulgar.

She doesn't talk to neighbors much.

She does find peace at a lake 35 miles from her home. She doesn't boat, fish or get in the water. She watches it.

``Water is very soothing to me,'' she said.

She tried counseling with her group, but it didn't help, and they finally gave up for lack of money, Tomlin said.

The federal convictions of McVeigh and his cohort Terry Nichols didn't help, either, because they were only charged for the murders of federal agents.

Not even McVeigh's execution in May 2001 helped, even though Tomlin witnessed it on closed circuit television in a room outside the prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

``He knew we were in a closed-circuit room,'' she said. ``They put the camera right above him and he just stared at you. He looked evil.

``But it didn't do anything for me. I wasn't happy to see him die. I know what heartache it put on his father.''

It wasn't until Nichols was tried by the state of Oklahoma and convicted of the other murders that she experienced any sort of positive feeling.

``I didn't care that he didn't get the death penalty,'' Tomlin said. ``I wanted someone held accountable for my husband's death. That was a high point in my life.''

Tomlin moved out of the house in Piedmont, Okla., where she and Rick lived when he died. But Rick's portrait hangs on the wall in her new home, and she still has the box containing the wristwatch he was wearing the day he died.

She also has the car keys he carried that day. And she has the tape from the answering machine on his office phone with his voice on it.

She has videotapes of Rick speaking at driver's education classes and performing other duties as a program specialist for the Office of Motor Carrier Safety, which is part of the Transportation Department.

``He's still here with me,'' Tomlin said. ``I don't know how to explain that. Even though he's gone, he's still here with me.

``If I'm having a really bad day, I know he's here. I just sense him being around.''

Talking about Rick is painful and leads to sleepless nights. Tomlin said therapists have told her that a normal death takes loved ones two to five years to recover from, but a death in a tragedy like the bombing requires five to 10 years.

And here it is, 10 years.

``A lot of us, we're like coming out of the fog,'' Tomlin said, ``and reality is setting in.''
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