Federal Judge Experienced Both Oklahoma Bombing, New York Terror Attack

Sunday, September 24th 2006, 2:30 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ For the first time, a federal bankruptcy judge has discussed his unique spot in history _ as a witness to the two most deadly terror attacks on U.S. soil.

Judge Richard L. Bohanon was in his office, a block away from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, when a truck bomb exploded on April 19, 1995, killing 168 people. On Sept. 11, 2001, he was in New York on a temporary assignment, in an office near the World Trade Center towers.

``Somehow, I was spared _ twice,'' Bohanon said. ``I was put in peril, but I was never harmed.''

Bohanon, 71, said that even now, he struggles with his emotions when he considers the enormity of the two events.

``At first, it's so incredible, both of these, that you just can't get your arms around it,'' he said. ``Once I realized what had happened and how many people had been killed and harmed, that's when the emotion of it came to me.''

His wife, Annie, said she also is bothered that she's had to wonder twice if she had been widowed.

``I have anxiety dreams that I don't know where Dick is and I can't find him,'' she said.

When the truck bomb exploded outside the Murrah Building, Bohanon was on the phone with a friend, congratulating him on a new job. After the initial shock of the blast, Bohanon checked on people in his office, called his wife and evacuated the federal courthouse.

He first ran toward the Murrah Building, but a police officer, running toward him, shouted that there might be another bomb, so Bohanon began running in the other direction.

During the Sept. 11 attacks, as he exited from a subway across the street from the Manhattan bankruptcy courthouse, he saw people looking up and learned a plan had hit the towers. He called his wife. Later, he and a friend thought they felt something ``like a slight earthquake,'' which Bohanon thinks was the collapse of the first tower.

``I just kind of thought, 'My God, here we are again,''' Bohanon said.

Those in the courthouse evacuated to a basement and waited, because the air outside was filled with smoke and dust. When he left, Bohanon and his friend walked two hours through ash the judge describes as ``almost ankle deep'' on the ground and like ``a dense fog'' in the air.

It took an hour before they reached clear air.

Annie Bohanon also had to evacuate a club at which they were staying because of a bomb threat at nearby Grand Central Station. She did not know if her husband had survived until she found him, hours later, at the club, still wearing his ash-covered clothes.

``I couldn't believe it when I saw you,'' she said to her husband. ``It was just awful. You were just white.

``But, who cares? He was alive.''

She said that now, she and her husband choose not to live in fear and that they still travel to New York so he can help with bankruptcy cases there.

``That is a lesson,'' Richard Bohanon said. ``We're not going to let them do something to us ... It doesn't accomplish anything.''