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A massive mine explosion leaves nearly 100 dead in Krebs, Oklahoma, on January 7, 1892. The disaster, the worst mining catastrophe in Oklahoma’s history, was mainly due to the mine owner’s emphasis on profits over safety.
Southeastern Oklahoma was a prime location for mining at the turn of the 19th century. Much of the land belonged to Native Americans and thus was exempt from U.S. federal government laws and regulations. Although the mining company’s indifferent attitude toward safety was well-known, there were more than enough immigrants in the area willing to work in the dangerous conditions at the Krebs mine, where most miners were of Italian and Russian descent.
In the early evening of January 7, several hundred workers were mining the No. 11 mine when an inexperienced worker accidentally set off a stash of explosives. Approximately 100 miners were burned or buried in the explosion. Another 150 workers suffered serious injuries. Nearly every household in Krebs was directly affected by the tragedy.
It wasn’t until 2002 that the victims of the Krebs mining disaster were honored by a memorial built at the site of the old mine.
Mine explodes in Oklahoma - HISTORY
Krebs, Pittsburg County, Oklahoma
January 7, 1892
No. Killed - 100
(From the Colliery Engineer, February 1892, pp. 160-162)
The mine has always given off a moderate amount of gas. The miners work with naked lights, and the mine is carefully inspected for gas before the miners go to work.
Shot firers go into the mine after the miners are out between 6 p.m. and midnight.
The entry men are the only miners allowed to fire their own shots, and they are not to commence firing until 5:30 p.m.
At 5 o'clock hoisting of the men began. Five cages had been raised and 30 men landed on the surface, when a cloud of smoke and dust burst from the shaft.
As the fan was undisturbed, the engine was given more steam to increase the speed.
Rescuers were lowered in a basket. Many men, uninjured or slightly burned walked through the return airways, and escaped by No. 7 shaft.
As no inspector was appointed for Indian Territory, a committee was appointed who determined that the explosion came from 1 or 2 shots in entry 0 fired at 5:04 p.m. The shots were badly located and blew out, firing the dust.
The roadway was sprinkled, but much fine dust on the ribs and elsewhere carried the explosion to the shaft.
|Historical Summary of Mine Disasters in the United States - Volume I|
Awful Loss of Life in an Indian Territory Mine Disaster
The Ohio Democrat, New Philadelphia Ohio
January 14, 1892
South McAllister, I. T., Jan. 9 -- The horrors of the Diamond mine disaster at Braidwood, Ill., about eight years ago, were reenacted here Thursday night and Friday except that in this instance fire instead of flood was the instrument of destruction. As has already been telegraphed, the miners were preparing to leave shaft No. 11 at Krebs, 5 miles from here, operated by the Osage Coal & Mining Company, shortly after 5 o'clock Friday evening, a terrific explosion occurred spreading death among 400 or more miners at work.
It is impossible at present to obtain any accurate information as to the number of lives lost or persons injured, but it is known that at least 100 men are entombed in the mine, and it is only possible to ascertain their number by a canvass from house to house, which is being made by a committee appointed for the purpose.
The explosion occurred about 5 p. m. Thursday, at which time there were about 400 men at work in the mine. They were the day shift, and were just preparing to ascent when the explosion took place. Six men who had already been hoisted in the cage had just stepped on the platform at the side of the shaft. The cage was blown through the roof of the tower and 50 feet into the air. Flames shot up the shaft and above the ground fully 100 feet, which were followed by a terrific report which was heard for miles around and shook all the neighboring country violently.
The news of the disaster spread quickly through the villagers surrounding Krebs. Every physician at once volunteered his services and hastened to Krebs ready to do his duty of mercy. Hundreds of miners from the Braidwood and McALlister fields hurried to the scene to do what they could in assisting in the rescue of the entombed men and the recovery of the dead. The work of rescue was begun at once and has continued all through Thursday night and Friday. The work was hazardous, but the hope that some of the unfortunate men might be rescued alive spurred the rescuers on to many deeds of bravery and possibly self-sacrifice.
List of Fatalities obtained from The Chronicles of Oklahoma, Volume 53, Summer 1980.
Today In Manufacturing History: Oklahoma's Worst Mining Disaster Ever
On this day in 1892, a huge mine explosion killed nearly 100 people in Krebs, Oklahoma.
On this day in 1892, a huge mine explosion killed nearly 100 people in Krebs, Oklahoma. It was considered the "worst mining catastrophe" in the state's history.
The owner of the Osage Coal & Mining Company's No. 11 mine was allegedly more interested in making a profit than the safety of the workers, which was what many believe played a major role in the explosion. The mine was well-known for its poor working conditions, resulting in high turnover rates, inexperienced or unskilled workers and little-to-no training.
Hundreds of workers were mining on the evening of January 7 th when one of the experience-lacking employees unintentionally set off explosives. Nearly 100 miners were burned or buried from the blast, while 150 others faced serious injuries. The catastrophe affected almost every household in the community.
A memorial was built in 2002 at the former mine site in honor of the victims.
Image courtesy of the Krebs Heritage Museum website
The second of the three phases in which the performance or reclamation bond monies are released to the operator is known as Phase II. Typically this release is sought after re-vegetation standards have been met on an increment or identifiable unit of a mine. Topsoil depths should be verified at this time if they were not verified during the Phase I bond release. All permanent vegetation species, including grasses, trees, and shrubs must have been planted on the site in accordance with the approved permit and land uses. Success of the re-vegetation must be demonstrated by methods either described in the permit or by approved sampling procedures described by the Department. At a minimum, the area to be released must not be contributing suspended solids or acid drainage to stream flow or runoff outside the permit area in excess of the standards set forth in the regulations. The Department will re-calculate the required bond to remain posted and release the bond monies exceeding this amount.
Phase III Bond Release
In The 1920s, A Community Conspired To Kill Native Americans For Their Oil Money
Ernest and Mollie Burkhart married in 1917. Unbeknownst to Mollie, a member of the Osage tribe, the marriage was part of a larger plot to steal her family's oil wealth. Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoman Collection/Courtesy of Doubleday hide caption
Ernest and Mollie Burkhart married in 1917. Unbeknownst to Mollie, a member of the Osage tribe, the marriage was part of a larger plot to steal her family's oil wealth.
Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoman Collection/Courtesy of Doubleday
Generations ago, the American Indian Osage tribe was compelled to move. Not for the first time, white settlers pushed them off their land in the 1800s. They made their new home in a rocky, infertile area in northeast Oklahoma in hopes that settlers would finally leave them alone.
As it turned out, the land they had chosen was rich in oil, and in the early 20th century, members of the tribe became spectacularly wealthy. They bought cars and built mansions they made so much oil money that the government began appointing white guardians to "help" them spend it.
The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI
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And then Osage members started turning up dead.
In his new book, Killers of the Flower Moon, David Grann describes how white people in the area conspired to kill Osage members in order steal their oil wealth, which could only be passed on through inheritance. "This was a culture of complicity," he says, "and it was allowed to go on for so long because so many people were part of the plot. You had lawmen, you had prosecutors, you had the reporters who wouldn't cover it. You had oilmen who wouldn't speak out. You had morticians who would cover up the murders when they buried the body. You had doctors who helped give poison to people."
On how the conspiracy worked
What makes these crimes so sinister is that it involved marrying into families. It involved a level of calculation and a level of betraying the very people you pretended to love. And the way these murders would take place is that people would marry into the families and then begin to kill each member of the family. . That's exactly what happened to [Osage woman Mollie Burkhart]. She had married a white man, and his uncle was the most powerful settler in the area. He was known as the King of the Osage Hills . and he had orchestrated a very sinister plot played out over years where he directed his nephew, who had married Mollie Burkhart, to marry her so that he could then begin to kill the family members one by one and siphon off all the wealth.
On how Mollie Burkhart's family was killed
One day in 1921, her older sister disappeared and Mollie looked everywhere for her and couldn't find her. And about a week later, her body was found essentially in a ravine, decomposed. She'd been shot in the back of the head.
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Then just a few weeks later, Mollie's mother began to grow increasingly sick. She seemed to be almost disappearing, withering in front of her. And within two months she, too, had died. And evidence later suggested that she had been secretly poisoned.
Not long after that, Mollie was sleeping in her bed in her house with her white husband they had a couple children. And she heard a loud explosion. She got up in panic and terror. . She had another sister who lived not far away, and in the area where her sister's house was she could see almost this orange fire ball rising into the sky. It almost looked as if the sun had burst into the night. And her sister's house had been blown up killing that sister as well as her sister's husband and a servant who lived in that house.
Mollie Burkhart (second from right) lost all three of her sisters under suspicious circumstances. Rita Smith (left) died in an explosion, Anna Brown (second from left) was shot in the head and Minnie Smith (right) died of what doctors referred to as a "peculiar wasting illness." The Osage National Museum/Courtesy of Doubleday hide caption
Mollie Burkhart (second from right) lost all three of her sisters under suspicious circumstances. Rita Smith (left) died in an explosion, Anna Brown (second from left) was shot in the head and Minnie Smith (right) died of what doctors referred to as a "peculiar wasting illness."
The Osage National Museum/Courtesy of Doubleday
On how far the conspirators went to cover up their crimes
Almost anyone who tried to investigate the killings — or at least stop them in the area — they, too, were killed. One attorney tried to gather evidence and one day he was thrown off a speeding train and all the evidence that he had gathered had disappeared. Another time, an oilman had traveled to Washington, D.C., to try to get help. . He checked into a boarding house in Washington, D.C. . He was then found the next day stripped naked. He had been stabbed more than 20 times his head had been beaten in. The Washington Post at the time said what everyone at that point knew, which was there was a conspiracy to kill rich Indians.
On how authorities reacted to the deaths
It's really important to understand back then that there was so much lawlessness. That was one of the things that shocked me when I began researching the story, that even in the 1920s much of America remained a country that was not fully rooted in its laws. Its legal institutions were very fragile there was enormous corruption, particularly in this era and in this area. And the conspirators were able to pay off lawmen, they were able to pay off prosecutors. There was so much prejudice that these crimes were neglected.
Mollie Burkhart beseeched the authorities to try to investigate, to get help, but because of prejudice they often ignored the crimes. And she issued money for a reward, she hired private investigators, but the crimes for years remained unsolved, and the body count continued to increase. By 1924 there were at least 24 murders alone. .
Finally, the Osage, in desperation, they issued a resolution, a tribal resolution, beseeching the federal authorities to help. And finally a then-very obscure branch of the Justice Department intervened. It was known as the Bureau of Investigation and it was what . would later be renamed the FBI.
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On the FBI's investigation
J. Edgar Hoover . was the new director, and it became one of the FBI's first major homicide cases that it ever dealt with. . The bureau initially badly bungled the case. . [Hoover] turned the case over to a frontier lawman at the time who finally put together an undercover team that included . probably the only American Indian agent in the bureau at the time. They went undercover. . They were able, through some dogged investigation and at great danger, to eventually capture some of the ringleaders. And those ringleaders included not only Mollie Burkhart's husband, it also included [his] uncle, a man who was seen as this great protector of the community.
On what the FBI missed in their investigation
The bureau was so anxious to wrap up the case that they ignored many, many other unsolved crimes and many, many other killers. . When you begin to look at the documents and you begin to collect the evidence from the Osage, it becomes abundantly apparent. .
I pulled some of the guardian papers and there was this little booklet that came out. It had a little fabric cover. All it was was essentially identifying the name of a guardian and which Osage they were in charge of. And when I opened up the book, I could see the name of the guardian and when I began to look at the names of the Osage under them I could see written next to many of them simply the word "Dead. Dead. Dead." It was almost like a ledger it was like this forensic, bureaucratic accounting.
But when you're looking at it, you're beginning to realize you're looking at hints of a systematic murder campaign, because there's no way all these people died in a span of just a couple years. It defied any natural death rate. The Osage were wealthy, they had good doctors. . And then when you begin to look into each of those individual cases, you start to find trails of evidence suggesting poisonings, a murder. You start to try to trace the money . and where the wealth went. And what you begin to discover is something even more horrifying than the bureau ever exposed.
Radio producer Taylor Haney, radio editor Shannon Rhoades and digital producer Nicole Cohen contributed to this story.
The Coal Mining Massacre America Forgot
The gunfight in downtown Matewan on May 19, 1920, had all the elements of a high-noon showdown: on one side, the heroes, a pro-union sheriff and mayor on the other, the dastardly henchmen of the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency. Within 15 minutes, ten people were dead—seven detectives, two miners and the mayor. Three months later, the conflict in the West Virginia coal town had escalated to the point where martial law was declared and federal troops had to intervene. The showdown may sound almost cinematic, but the reality of the coal miners’ armed standoffs throughout the early 20th century was much darker and more complicated.
Then, as now, West Virginia was coal country. The coal industry was essentially the state’s sole source of work, and massive corporations built homes, general stores, schools, churches and recreational facilities in the remote towns near the mines. For miners, the system resembled something like feudalism. Sanitary and living conditions in the company houses were abysmal, wages were low, and state politicians supported wealthy coal company owners rather than miners. The problems persisted for decades and only began to improve once Franklin Delano Roosevelt passed the National Industrial Recovery Act in 1933.
As labor historian Hoyt N. Wheeler writes, “Firing men for union activities, beating and arresting union organizers, increasing wages to stall the union’s organizational drive, and a systematic campaign of terror produced an atmosphere in which violence was inevitable.” The mine guards of Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency repeatedly shut down miners’ attempts at unionization with everything from drive-by assaults of striking miners to forcing men, women and children out of their homes.
The combination of perilous working conditions and miner-guard tensions led to a massive strike in 1912 in southern West Virginia (Matewan sits on the state’s southern border with Kentucky). After five months, things came to a head when 6,000 union miners declared their intention to kill company guards and destroy company equipment. When the state militia swooped in several days later, they seized 1,872 high-powered rifles, 556 pistols, 225,000 rounds of ammunition, and large numbers of daggers, bayonets and brass knuckles from both groups.
Although World War I briefly distracted union organizers and coal companies from their feud, the fighting soon picked back up again. As wealth consolidated after the war, says historian Rebecca Bailey, the author of Matewan Before the Massacre, unions found themselves in the crosshairs.
“Following World War I, there was an increasing concentration into fewer hands of industrial corporate power,” says Bailey. “Unions were anathema to them simply because human labor was one of the few cost items that could be manipulated and lowered.”
As the rich mine owners got richer, union-organized strikes became a way for miners to protect their salaries. Leaders like John L. Lewis, the head of the United Mine Workers of America, insisted that workers’ strength came through collective action. In one successful protest, 400,000 UMWA went on strike nationwide in 1919, securing higher wages and better working conditions. But while wages generally increased for miners throughout the period, they tended to rise more slowly in non-union areas, and the union itself struggled throughout the 1920s. For capitalists, it was a battle for profit—and against what they saw as Bolshevik communism. For workers, it was a fight for their rights as humans.
The two sides came to a head in the conflict in Matewan. In response to a massive UMWA organizing effort in the area, local mining companies forced miners to sign yellow-dog contracts that bound them never to join a union. On May 19, Baldwin-Felts agents arrived in Matewan to evict miners and their families from Stone Mountain Coal Company housing. It was a normal day on the job for the agents the detective agency, founded in the 1890s, provided law-enforcement contractors for railroad yards and other industrial corporations. It also did the brunt of the work suppressing unionization in coal mining towns—and today, the Baldwin-Felts men were there to kick out men who had joined the UMWA.
That same day, the town of Matewan was teeming with a number of unemployed miners who came to receive a few dollars, sacks of flour and other foodstuffs from the union to prevent their families from starving. Whether the men also came in anticipation of taking action against the Baldwin-Felts agents is a matter of debate. Either way, the visiting miners had the rare support of pro-union Matewan police chief, Sid Hatfield, and the town’s mayor, Cabell Testerman.
According to one version of the story, the Baldwin-Felts agents tried to arrest Hatfield when he attempted to prevent the evictions from taking place. When the mayor defended Hatfield from the arrest, he was shot, and more bullets began to fly. In another version of the story, Hatfield initiated the violence, either by giving a signal to armed miners stationed around the town or by firing the first shot himself. For Bailey, the latter seems the more likely scenario because the agents would have known they were outnumbered—and if union miners and Hatfield did initiate the violence, the story of Matewan is darker than a simple underdog tale.
“I call it elevation through denigration,” she says, noting that the union benefited from the moral high ground as victims regardless of whether they instigated the violence.
But for Terry Steele, a former coal miner in West Virginia and member of the local UMWA, revolting was the only way to respond to abuse. He says local wisdom had it that, “If you got a mule killed in the mines and you were in charge, you could lose your job over it. If you got a man killed, he could be replaced.”
What made the situation worse, according to Wilma Steele, a founding member of the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum, was the contempt outsiders had for miners in the region. Locals had a reputation for being violent and unreasonable. “It set the stereotype that they were used to feuding and they were people who don’t care about anything but a gun and a bottle of liquor,” says Steele. “That was the propaganda. But these people were being abused.”
Although police chief Hatfield was celebrated as a hero by the mining community after the shootout, and even starred in a movie for the UMWA, he was a villain to T. L. Felts, a Baldwin-Felts partner who lost two brothers to the massacre. When Hatfield was acquitted in a local trial by jury, Felts brought a conspiracy charge against him, forcing the police chief to appear in court once more. On the stairway of the courthouse in August 1921, Hatfield and his deputy, Ed Chambers, were gunned down by Baldwin-Felts agents.
In response to the assassination, an army of miners 10,000 strong began a full-on assault against the coal company and the mine guards. While miners shot at their opponents, private planes organized by the coal companies’ defensive militia dropped bleach and shrapnel bombs on the union’s headquarters. The battle only stopped when federal troops arrived on the order of President Warren Harding.
The entire event was covered rabidly by the national press, says Chatham University historian Louis Martin, who is also a founding member of the West Virginia Mine Wars Museum. “National papers sold a lot of copies by portraying the area as a lawless land where the mountaineers were inherently violent,” Martin says. “This was a romanticized version of events, creating an Old West type image of Appalachia. This obviously didn’t lead to widespread public support for the miners in their struggles.”
When the conflict concluded, hundreds of miners were indicted for murder, and more than a dozen were charged with treason. Although all but one were acquitted of treason charges, others were found guilty of murder and spent years in prison. Even worse, the UMWA experienced a significant decline in membership throughout the 1920s, and in 1924 the UMWA district that included Matewan lost its local autonomy because of the incident. As the years progressed, the union distanced itself even further from the Matewan massacre.
For Bailey, it’s easy to see this story in terms of good and evil—and that ignores the nuance of the story.
“When we essentialize a narrative into heroes and villains, we run the risk of invalidating human pain and agency,” Bailey says. “The Baldwin-Felts agents were professional men. They believed they were fighting the onslaught of Communism. Their opponents were fighting for a fair and living wage, an appropriate share of the benefits of their labor.”
This fight between collectivism and individualism, the rights of the worker and the rights of the owner, have been part of America since the country’s founding, Bailey says. And even today, that battle rages on—perhaps not with bullets, but with eroding regulations and workers’ rights. Though at first the federal government acted as a third-party broker, protecting union rights with bargaining regulations initiated by Franklin Roosevelt, workers’ rights were eventually curtailed by more powerful actors.
“[Unions] became so dependent on federal labor laws and the National Labor Relations Board that they lived and died by what the federal government would allow them to do,” Martin says. “That was the beginning of a decline in union power in this country”—one that’s still ongoing. Martin cites the failure of the Employee Free Choice Act to pass in Congress (which was aimed at removing barriers to unionization), the closure of the last union coal mine in Kentucky in 2015, the loss of retirement benefits for former miners, and the surge in black lung disease as evidence of unions’ fading power.
“The things they were fighting for [in the Matewan massacre] are the things we’re fighting for today,” Terry Steele says. He’s one of the miners who will be losing his health insurance and retirement plan in the wake of his employer’s bankruptcy. “The things our forefathers stood for are now being taken away from us. It seems like we’re starting to turn the clock back.”
Oklahoma City bombing
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Oklahoma City bombing, terrorist attack in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, U.S., on April 19, 1995, in which a massive homemade bomb composed of more than two tonnes of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and fuel oil concealed in a rental truck exploded, heavily damaging the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. A total of 168 people were killed, including 19 children, and more than 500 were injured. The building was later razed, and a park was built on the site. The bombing remained the deadliest terrorist assault on U.S. soil until the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon outside Washington, D.C., in 2001. (See September 11 attacks.)
Although at first suspicion wrongly focused on Middle Eastern terrorist groups, attention quickly centred on Timothy McVeigh—who had been arrested shortly after the explosion for a traffic violation—and his friend Terry Nichols. Both were former U.S. Army soldiers and were associated with the extreme right-wing and militant Patriot movement. Two days after the bombing and shortly before he was to be released for his traffic violation, McVeigh was identified and charged as a suspect, and Nichols later voluntarily surrendered to police. McVeigh was convicted on 11 counts of murder, conspiracy, and using a weapon of mass destruction and was executed in 2001—the first person executed for a federal crime in the United States since 1963. Nichols avoided the death penalty but was convicted of conspiracy and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to life in prison. Other associates were convicted of failing to inform authorities about their prior knowledge of the conspiracy, and some observers believed that still other participants were involved in the attack.
Although McVeigh and Nichols were not directly connected with any major political group, they held views characteristic of the broad Patriot movement, which feared authoritarian plots by the U.S. federal government and corporate elites. At its most extreme, the Patriot movement denied the legitimacy of the federal government and law enforcement. One manifestation of the rightist upsurge was the formation of armed militia groups, which, according to some sources, claimed a national membership of about 30,000 by the mid-1990s. The militias justified their existence by claiming a right to armed self-defense against an allegedly oppressive government. In this context, the date of the Oklahoma City attack was doubly significant, falling on two notable anniversaries. April 19 marked both Patriots’ Day, the anniversary of the American rebellion against British authority at Lexington, Massachusetts, in 1775, and the date on which federal agents brought the Waco siege to a culmination by raiding the compound of the heavily armed Branch Davidian religious sect in Waco, Texas, in 1993. McVeigh claimed that the building in Oklahoma City was targeted to avenge the more than 70 deaths at Waco. Following the Oklahoma City attack, media and law enforcement officials began intense investigations of the militia movement and other armed extremist groups.
Speaking at a nationally televised memorial service in Oklahoma City a few days after the attack, U.S. Pres. Bill Clinton said, in part,
To all my fellow Americans beyond this hall, I say, one thing we owe those who have sacrificed is the duty to purge ourselves of the dark forces which gave rise to this evil. They are forces that threaten our common peace, our freedom, our way of life.
Let us teach our children that the God of comfort is also the God of righteousness. Those who trouble their own house will inherit the wind. Justice will prevail.
A chain-link fence that was erected shortly after the bombing to protect the site soon became a makeshift memorial to those killed in the incident and was festooned with condolence messages, poems, and countless other mementos. That fence became part of the permanent Outdoor Symbolic Memorial (which also includes a reflecting pool and a field of 168 empty chairs) that was dedicated in 2000. A year later the museum portion of Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum was opened.
5 Chicago Teamsters&rsquo Strike
In April 1905, workers at the Montgomery Ward department store went on strike in Chicago, Illinois. Their chief complaint was that the owner subcontracted to nonunion workers. This minor labor dispute rapidly grew when the Teamsters Union launched strikes in solidarity with the department store workers. 
The Teamsters had a strong Chicago membership. About 30,000 out of its 45,000 total members were in the Windy City. Soon, nearly every major employer in the metropolitan area of Chicago was affected.
In response, the Employers&rsquo Association of Chicago raised millions of dollars (adjusted for inflation) to hire a massive force of strikebreakers. These men received special protections from the courts, allowing them great leniency in dishing out violence.
The Teamsters and other union strikers often clashed with the strikebreakers. By the time the strike ended in August, more than 20 striking workers had been killed in clashes with strikebreakers (none of whom were killed). More than 400 workers were also injured.
Rescuers raced toward the danger. Some were already on the clock and had their equipment others rushed in from home, wearing only street clothes. They sped to get as close as they could until they just had to leave their vehicles and run the rest of the way over streets covered in glass and debris.
Fields, a trained hazmat expert and one of the department's senior officers, had just gotten to the firehouse for the day shift when the bomb went off. He was one of the first on the scene.
"We were told by our incident commander to go to the south side of the building and we were going to be given our assignment," Fields said in an interview. "And walking to the south side of the building with my crew, there was three other guys with me. A gentleman just, I mean, it was like he just appeared in front of me and said 'I have a critical infant.'"
"You know, my mom always said, 'There's a reason it was you,'" said Fields, whose own son had just turned 2 when the bomb went off. "I just remember saying, 'Here, I'll take her.' He handed me Baylee and he was gone back into the building."
The fires were still raging. Heavy black smoke was pouring from the wreckage of the building and the cars that surrounded it. People, injured and bloody in a daze, were desperately searching for help. Fields took Baylee in toward his chest and ran her over to the waiting emergency medical technicians who had to put down a sheet so they could examine the baby.
In the distance, two photographers captured the moment, as Fields waited for the EMTs to get ready to take the child.
"I had to clean some concrete dust or insulation stuff out of her throat trying to open her airway. And I didn't find any signs of life," Fields said. "I'm just standing there looking at her and, in my mind, I'm thinking somebody's world is getting ready to be turned upside down."
That somebody was Baylee's mom, Aren, who by that time was with her own sister, racing back-and-forth between hospitals trying to find the baby with the white socks. They had no way of knowing that a cop had already found the battered little girl and handed her off to the nearest firefighter, Fields.
"We get back in the car and drive back to Saint Anthony's [Hospital], which we originally started at," Almon said. "I walked into the hospital and I saw my pediatrician's nurse, and I was like, 'They said there sounds like a baby that's here that'" could be Baylee.
The nurse said, "'Well, hold on,'" Almon said. "So she called the pediatrician. And she goes, 'Oh my God. No.'"
The baby is believed to have died almost instantly at the Murrah building.
The next morning, Fields would learn that the critically injured 1-year-old he carried to an EMT was named Baylee Almon -- and that together, Chris and Baylee, would become the faces of the tragedy of the Oklahoma City bombing.
For 25 years, Fields and Almon have shared the bond they wished they didn't have and befriended each other as both confronted demons born out of the blast at the corner of North Harvey Avenue and Northwest 4th Street.
"One day I was a parent," Almon said. "And I woke up the next day and I wasn't."
Fields continued on in the fire department, working until retirement two years ago. It took nearly a decade after the bombing for the survivor's guilt and post-traumatic stress to catch up with him, but when it did, he said, it was brutal.
"I could tell that I was kind of withdrawing from my family," Fields said. "And things just spiraled out of control with my personal life, everything. You know, me and my wife ended up being separated for about 15 months, until I got to a point in my life I would consider rock bottom for me."
Through it all, Fields and Almon said they were there for each other – almost like brother and sister. Fields got help, rebounded and put his life back together. He now helps other first responders learn how to live with the trauma wrought by their careers.
Almon has spent 25 years mourning a child whose last moments were shared with the world. It's been far from easy, she said.
"Baylee was a real person. She wasn't always that baby in the fireman's arms," Almon said. "She was a real person."
Mine explodes in Oklahoma - HISTORY
CARDOTT, BRIAN J., Oklahoma Geological Survey, Norman, OK
Once an explosion hazard in eastern Oklahoma underground coal mines, coalbed-methane (CBM) has become a valuable resource. Mine explosions from gas and dust caused more than 500 deaths in mining disasters from 1885-1945. There have been more than 600 CBM completions in Oklahoma since 1988.
CBM well information is in the coalbed-methane completions table of the Oklahoma Coal Database. Each record in the table includes the operator, well name, completion date, location information (township grid system and latitude-longitude), county, coal bed, producing depth interval, initial potential gas and produced-water rates, and comments. A searchable version of the table is available as a link from the Oklahoma Geological Survey web page.
The CBM play began in 1988 with 7 wells in the Hartshorne coal bed at depths of 611-716 ft. A maximum of 68 wells were drilled in 1992, followed by a decline to 26 wells in 1994. Through 1993, CBM production was exclusively from the Arkoma basin. Activity on the northeast Oklahoma shelf began with 3 wells in 1994. More than 140 CBM wells were drilled in 1997, of which more than 100 were on the shelf. Since 1988, depths of producing intervals ranged from 216-1,689 ft on the shelf to 598-3,748 ft in the basin. Initial potential gas rates ranged from a trace to 125 thousand cubic feet of gas per day (MCFGPD) on the shelf and from a trace to 595 MCFGPD from a horizontal CBM well in the basin.
Low initial gas rates and minimal initial increase in gas production during dewatering are often attributed to formation damage caused by well stimulation, including the generation of coal fines that plug permeability. Present industry emphasis is on matching the completion technique to the specific coal bed.
COVID-19 Update - OPIC
The Oklahoma Geological Survey – Oklahoma Petroleum Information Center (OPIC) will be closed to the general public effective March 13 th through April 6 thdue to health and safety concerns over the spread of the COVID-19 virus. This is a preemptive measure to protect OPIC visitors and staff in compliance with the University of Oklahoma’s preventative measures amid this emerging public health situation. We apologize for any disruptions this may cause.