Bombing reminds of what's important

On April 19, 1995 - 20 years ago - at 9:02 a.m., I was sitting at a park bench in Honor Heights Park, enjoying the feeling of spring making its way through the park.

Cell phones were relatively new - and expensive - but I had a cheap Nokia phone that ran on Cingular, which only charged an arm to make a phone call, instead of other carriers' arm and a leg. Back then, it was so expensive to make a cell call that you almost never gave anyone your number for fear that they would call you - because you paid for incoming calls just like you did for calls you made. When someone called, just their number showed up on the tiny screen - there wasn't room for anything more.

On that park bench, my cell rang. The screen showed a number: 684-2903. We didn't have to use the area code for local calls back then. I knew that number, because at work, I sent callers to it every day. It was Kristi Fry, then the city editor at the Muskogee (we still used the word Daily in the title then) Phoenix. He wasn't my boss, but everyone knew he was in charge anyway. I was a copy editor, in charge of the Sunday and Monday papers, but during the week, I was just in charge of whichever pages the news editor, Vicky Holland, assigned to me.

I answered the call.

"Leif, this is Kristi," he said breathlessly before I could even say hello. "Someone has blown the hell out of the federal building in Oklahoma City. Get in here as fast as you can."

I ran to my Ford Ranger that was a thousand miles past its last hurrah and raced from the park to the newspaper's downtown office, motor clicking angrily at me the whole way.

The newsroom was in chaos.

Reporters were scrambling to get their assignments as they and photographers piled into cars together to demolish speed limit laws all the way to the city. Advertising people were arguing with editor George Benge over how much newshole (the amount of space in the paper for news copy) we would get. Vicky Holland was voraciously munching on a white Bic pen, throwing pieces of paper at all the copy editors who had made it in.

I sat at my place on the copy desk and started hammering away on the main "wire" page, mostly horrific images from the AP photo feed and what little information the news services had been able to gather. I later would shift rather abruptly to the local section as our reporters began to call in and dictate stories - the Internet hadn't reached the paper yet, so we still did things that way.

Our photographers had to borrow equipment from the AP office in Oklahoma City to send photos to us via satellite. As the story began to unfold of a lone American named Timothy McVeigh who had driven a Ryder truck full of fertilizer up to the front door and lit the fuse, Donna Hales began to uncover a local connection - McVeigh had visited the secretive, polygamous Cherokee County community that called itself Elohim City, where white supremacists quietly plotted against the government.

The coverage of the bombing, its aftermath and the unfolding local connection sprawled out and dominated our paper for the next month, during which I worked every single day without a day off - a record that I believe still stands to this day. I worked so much that I had no time to reflect on the horror of the news I was producing every day. Who even knew before that point that you could make a bomb out of fertilizer?

Through the years, the horror of what then was the worst terrorist attack on American soil has faded, obscured by 9/11. But there are lessons still to be had from 4/21. Oklahoma City was done not by some skulking foreign terrorist organization - though our government initially tried to blame Osama bin Laden. It was planned and executed by a clean-cut all-American psychopath who let conspiracy theories take him down a path that killed 168 people.

Today, it's easy to think of terrorism as something foreign brown people are trying to do to us, but the reality of Oklahoma City's bombing is that terrorists can be anywhere, even the innocent-looking boy driving a Ryder truck.

We can either cower and be suspicious of everyone all the time or we can choose to live our lives, make the best of the minuscule blink of time we have here and not worry about all the bad things that might happen. Evil is out there, stewing, brooding, planning. But it always has been. Always will. As we remember a 20-year-old tragedy this weekend, let's choose to remember it this way - you never know when your journey here will be done, so live today like there is no tomorrow. And then hopefully tomorrow, you can live the same way. Enjoy your spouse, your children, your friends. Let them know how much you love them and appreciate how honored you are that they're in your life.

One of my old bosses, Morris Cerullo, told me once, "When I die, lots of people are going to send flowers to me. Send them now, when I can enjoy them."

Don't wait to live your life.

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This story has been revised 2 times
  • By Leif M. Wright on Friday, April 17, 2015 at 11:28:44 a.m. (VIEW)
  • By Leif M. Wright on Friday, April 17, 2015 at 1:15:31 p.m. (VIEW)

EMS personnel honored for excellence

Paramedic Joshua Adcock, EMT Wendell Johnson, and EMD Kandis Crespy have been named as 2015 Oklahoma Ambulance Association (OKAMA) Stars of Life. The Star of Life award is presented to Paramedics, Emergency Medical Technicians, Emergency Medical Dispatchers, and other Oklahomans working in the emergency medical services field who demonstrate a strong commitment to their patients, clinical quality, and service excellence.

The Star of Life, a blue, six-pointed star, is the international symbol of emergency medical services. Each of the star's six arms represent a different link in the emergency chain of care.

Adcock, Johnson, Crespy and 16 other Oklahoma Star of Life honorees were recognized at a ceremony in the Blue Room of the Governor's Hall at the Oklahoma State Capitol. The Stars then received their awards at a banquet at the Oklahoma History Museum in Oklahoma City on April 1, 2015. Additionally, Johnson was selected to represent Muskogee County EMS at the American Ambulance Association's national Stars of Life event in Washington, D.C. held this week.

OKAMA President Rebecca B. Williamson says the Star of Life events help showcase the important role of emergency medical services. "Paramedics, Emergency Medical Technicians, Emergency Medical Dispatchers, and Emergency Medical Responders are on the frontline of healthcare. When Oklahomans need immediate life-saving care and treatment or have other medical crises, medic's are usually the ones who initiate care," explains Williamson. "The OKAMA Stars of Life are men and women who go above and beyond to get the job done. They sacrifice their own comforts, desires and needs - sometimes even their own safety - to make sure Oklahomans get the best possible emergency medical care."

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Company from Chile honored as Okies from Muskogee

Advantage Controls is hosting customers from ProEquipos, a Chilean Water Treatment firm. The company was the first non-North American customer for Advantage Controls. Mayor Bob Coburn stopped by to present them with certificates as "Honorary Okies from Muskogee" Edwardo and Christian, officers for the company were also presented and award from Advantage Controls celebrating our 20 year partnership.

Advantage President Dan Morris then presented Mayor Coburn with a kit of litter pick up supplies as a gag, but also as a means of recognizing him and thanking him for organizing the Muskogee 1300 clean-up.

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Three men hurt on Tenkiller Lake

Two men in a bass boat were headed east on Lake Tenkiller yesterday from Needle Point to Snake Creek when another bass boat struck them on the port side, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

The operator and passenger of the second boat, Jeremy Bersche and Ernest Fletcher, of Fort Smith, were ejected from their boat. Fletcher was treated and released at Mercy Hospital in Fort Smith. Bersche wasn't injured.

Jason Belt, a passenger in the first boat, from Sallisaw, was admitted to Saint John Hospital in Tulsa, where he was flown by helicopter, with trunk and internal injuries. Anthony Farris, also of Sallisaw, was transported to Northeastern Hospital in Tahlequah with trunk and internal injuries.

None of the men in the boats were using life jackets, according to the highway patrol.

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DA to host balloon launch for child abuse awareness

District Attorney Orvil Loge is hosting a balloon launch on Friday at 1 p.m. to remind Muskogee residents that preventing child abuse is a community effort.

Area luminaries will attend the launch, including Sheriff Charles Pearson, Police Chief Rex Eskridge and County Court Clerk Paula Sexton.

The launch is on the courthouse steps at 220 State Street. The event commemorates Child Abuse Prevention Month.

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City offers free leak check, internet water monitoring

The City of Muskogee has implemented a free service for water customers, which will assist them in efficiently managing their water usage and possibly lowering monthly bills.

Customers can now receive information about leaks before costly damage can occur. They will also have access to water usage from any internet-connected device, as well as receive alerts when certain thresholds are exceeded.

Muskogee water customers may register for this service online. Once registered, customers can receive leak alerts via email, text or telephone.

When usage indicates abnormally high usage or constant use over time, they will be notified of that usage so they may check for problems.

Customers may also view their bill estimate for the current period and set alerts to warn them if their bill is projected to exceed a certain dollar amount.

For registration, customers will need the name, phone number, email address and water account number on file. To register, visit http://www.muskogeeonline.org and click the Aquahawk link to get started.

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Free alcohol serving training is Thursday

The Regional Prevention Coordinators of Neighbors Building Neighborhoods (NBN), in partnership with the Alcoholic Beverage Laws Enforcement (ABLE) Commission, are offering a free, Responsible Beverage Service and Sales (RBSS) Training to local retailers in Muskogee County. The goal of RBSS is to properly train store clerks, servers, bartenders, security staff, and the management of alcohol establishments in the basic knowledge and skills to sale and serve the product safely, responsibly and legally.

The RBSS Training will be held in Muskogee this Thursday, March 16th 2015 from 10am-Noon at the NonProfit Resource Center, located at 207 N 2nd St.

This training, considered an evidence-based "best practice" for the prevention of retailer-related alcohol problems, has been vital in preparing retailers to responsibly read ID's, identify fake ID's, learn the signs of over-serving intoxicated individuals, and understand policies on how to deal with alcohol-related issues in establishments.

To reserve your spot at this no-cost training, please contact Jeremy Little at NBN, 918-683-4600 or jlittle@nbn-nrc.org.

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Rock and roll to fill Hall of Fame on Thursday

The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame will host Crossfire on Thursday at 7 pm at The Frisco Depot, 401 S. 3rd in Muskogee.

Crossfire is a group of local musicians who, after years of playing in a variety of bands and music venues throughout the United States, have come together to form what is now Crossfire. They provide a mix of music they have all enjoyed since the 60s, including everything from Contemporary Rock, Country, Pop, Blues, and all-time favorites. Members include Frankie Knight - drums, Roy Roberson - lead guitar/ vocals, Joe Roark - keyboards/vocals and Wayne Buck - bass guitar/vocals.

Doors open at 6:30 and the show starts at 7 pm. Admission is $5 at the door and all ages are welcome.

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Flood warning issued

The National Weather Service has issued a flood warning for parts of Muskogee County.

In addition, the southern part of Muskogee County has been issued a flash flood warning.

Please take appropriate measures and avoid driving into water.

The warning lasts until 7 p.m.

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This story has been revised 1 time
  • By Leif M. Wright on Monday, April 13, 2015 at 1:44:25 p.m. (VIEW)

Prominent pastor Lathon Archie dies

Muskogee pastor Apostle Lathon Archie of Faith Deliverance Christian Center died Saturday, just after noon, according to Keith D. Biglow Funeral Directors.

Archie had pastored the church since its founding in 1992 and was active in civic issues throughout his tenure.

A celebratory worship service will commence on Saturday morning, April 18, 2015 at 10:00 AM in the sanctuary of the FIrst Assembly of God, 3100 Gulick in Muskogee. Pastor Steve Rose is the host pastor.

Keith D. Biglow Funeral Directors Inc. is in charge of the arrangements.

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This story has been revised 1 time
  • By Leif M. Wright on Monday, April 13, 2015 at 8:56:37 a.m. (VIEW)

Bacone hosts free screenwriter's conference

Bacone College, in conjunction with the BareBones Film Festival, will host a Screenwriters Conference April 13-14 in Bacone's historic Wacoche Hall. All who are interested in filmmaking, documentaries, online or broadcast content distribution, and writing for film or television are welcome to attend.

This free conference features award-winning filmmakers, local talents, and writers sharing their wealth of experience and knowledge in screenwriting, character development, documentary scriptwriting, storyboarding, marketing and more. Sessions begin at 9 a.m. both days and continue through 3 p.m., including a roundtable lunch discussion at noon each day.

Guest speakers include:

Steven J. Boettcher, a five-time Emmy Award-winning filmmaker, whose current work includes producing and directing PBS's national series Pioneers of Television, now in its fourth season;

Shironbutterfly Ray, Founder, Director and Programmer of the Bare Bones International Independent Film & Music Festival;

Oscar Dean Ray, professional screenwriter, writing over 200 movie treatments and 20 screenplays;

Andrew Sikora, recipient of several American and international film awards including the PBS documentary "Katyn: Slaughter & Silence" and a Telly Award winning and 61st Cannes Film Festival film - "Stories of the Cherokees;" and

James West, Ph.D., winner of the National Communication Association Dissertation of the Year Award and the Division Chair of Liberal Arts and Humanities at Bacone College.

For more information, contact Andrew Sikora, sikoraa@bacone.edu.

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No one hurt in multiple shots fired incidents

There have been multiple shots fired calls today on the west side of Muskogee, according to emergency workers.

No one was hit in any of the incidents.

Police are investigating.

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MHS classes to start at different time for testing

Muskogee High School students will begin classes at 7:50 a.m. during the end-of-instruction exam testing period beginning Monday, April 13 and continuing through April 29.

Information: (918) 684-3750.

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Busy weekend ahead for Muskogee

It's that time of year again, and for Muskogee, that means a weekend packed full of activities and entertainment.

Tonight, the Bare Bones International Film and Music Festival kicks off, dubbed the "friendliest film festival in the world." For more information, call 918-616-1264.

If films aren't your speed, you could also stop by the Chili Cook-Off Kick-Off Party at the Okie Square on Okmulgee and Fourth. The night will feature a concert by Kinsey Sadler and the Young Reckless. Doors open at 7 p.m., concert begins at 8. 21 and older only.

Tomorrow, check out some amazing rides classic and new at the Cruizarders Car Club Eighth annual Car, Truck and Cycle Show. Goodie bags will be given to first 100 entrants. Plust lots of door prizes donated by many Muskogee area merchants. A 50/50 pot is available for anyone attending the show. Awards at the show include: Top 25, Best interior, Best engine, Best Old-Skool Bike, and Best in Show; Car-Truck-Cycle. The Cruizaders donate a portion of the proceeds to the First Baptist Church Free Medical Clinic. Entry fee: $15. For more info: rbraley1@suddenlink.net.

You could also attend the Two Hip Chicks Road Show at the civic center, starting at 10 a.m., which features vintage, boutique, shabby chic and bling goods. Admission is $4; children 12 and under are free.

Also starting at 10 tomorrow is the National Submarine Day at the Batfish. National Submarine Day honors the anniversary of the USS Holland, the first modern commissioned United States submarine. For the event Saturday, there will be diesel boat veterans leading guided tours through the USS Batfish. The guided tours will be held all day. Admission: $6 adults, $3 children (7-13, under 7 is free), $4 seniors/veterans. The Muskogee War Memorial Park does also offer group rates. For more info: (918) 682-6294.

The Azalea Parade kicks off downtown at 11 a.m. tomorrow. Groups from around the area assemble floats and strut their stuff in celebration of everything that makes Muskogee what it is. Don't miss the flowers, bands, floats, clowns and more. For more info: (918) 684-6302.

After the parade, get a little fire in your belly at the 31st Annual Chili and Barbecue Cook-Off at Okie Square. Teams from around the area compete to earn braggin' rights and to raise money for local children's charities. Grab a taster's kit and load up on the best chili and BBQ around. Taster kits are $10 each or 2 for $15. Vote for your favorites! You'll also enjoy live music, ice cold beer and activities for the kids. For more info: (918) 869-0733.

If powwows are your thing, head over to the Muskogee High School Gym at 7 p.m., when students will host their first Indian Education Powwow with gourd dancing.

At 4 p.m., local historian Jonita Mullins will lead a historic neighborhood walking tour through the Kendal Place District.

This weekend, if anyone you know says, "I'm bored," they're not really trying.

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Muskogee to host highway centennial and conference

The Jefferson Highway Association (JHA) will hold its annual conference for 2015 in Muskogee, Oklahoma from April 30 to May 2. This event will mark the centennial year of the highway and the association that was organized in 1915 to build an early north-south interstate.

On April 30, conference attendees will hear presentations on topics related to the conference theme: The Jefferson Highway through the Indian Nations. Historic Bacone College will be the site of the morning presentations and will offer a lunch for conference attendees in Wacoche Hall.

In the afternoon, trolley tours will give attendees an opportunity to learn the road's history in the Indian Capital. On Thursday evening, the Historic Roxy Theater will show the Will Rogers classic film "Life Begins at 40." Re-enactor Marty Tipton will demonstrate Will's famous rope tricks. Both the trolley tours and Will Rogers Night will be open to the general public. Seating is limited on the trolley so tickets are required. A Centennial Banquet will complete the conference on Saturday evening. It will be held at the Severs Hotel (Bank of Oklahoma) which also hosted the Jefferson Highway Conference in 1916. Michael Wallis, author of such books as Route 66 and The Lincoln Highway, will be the speaker for the banquet. Considered an authority on America's interstate highways, Wallis also gained fame by providing the voice of "Sheriff" in the Pixar movie Cars. The banquet is already sold out to conference attendees, but the public can buy a ticket to hear Wallis speak. The Jefferson Highway, named after Thomas Jefferson, was the first international highway to traverse the United States from north to south. Also known as the highway from "Palm to Pine," the road runs from New Orleans, Louisiana through Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Minnesota to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Look for conference registration information at the Association's website jeffersonhighway.org or call 641-377-2248. Additional information and tickets for public events are available at jeffersonhighwayinoklahoma.com.

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Man hurt in wreck

A Muskogee man was injured in a car wreck this evening. He is being transported to Tulsa with multiple life-threatening injuries, according to Rebecca Williamson of Muskogee County EMS.

The wreck occurred near 28th Street, she said.

We have received reports that the accident was a hit-and-run and that the victim was riding a motorcycle, but we have not yet been able to confirm that with authorities.

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This story has been revised 1 time
  • By Leif M. Wright on Thursday, April 9, 2015 at 8:25:08 p.m. (VIEW)

Summer concert series set for here

"Dancing in the District" is an outdoor summer concert series that will be held in downtown Muskogee on Broadway between 3rd and 4th streets. The series will be May 29, June 26, July 31 and August 21. Each event will include national touring acts along with some regional talent. National artists confirmed for the series include Shooter Jennings with Waymore's Outlaws, The Paul Thorn Band, Chris Stapleton, John Fullbright, The Railers, Uncle Lucious, Old Dominion, and Kevin & Dustin Welch.

Each night will be a festival atmosphere, with everything from food, beverage and retail vendors to event merchandise.

The events will begin at 5pm, ending at approximately 10pm, with the official after-party being held at Max's Garage.

Tickets are $10 and go on sale (online only) Saturday, April 11th on www.eventbrite.com. Physical tickets can be purchased beginning April 25th at The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame, The Greater Muskogee Area Chamber of Commerce and Max's Garage. Additional information regarding ticketing can be found at www.omhof.com or on the Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame Facebook page.

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Wilma Mankiller could end up on the $20

Wilma Mankiller, the first woman to be the chief of a native tribe, is a finalist to replace Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill.

Mankiller, who was Cherokee chief for 10 years, from 1985 to 1995, died in 2010.

A group called Women on 20s is embarking on a project to lobby President Barack Obama to replace Jackson in the year 2020, the 100th anniversary of women's right to vote. Replacing Jackson would have double meaning if Mankiller is chosen, since Jackson was the president who signed the legislation forcing the removal of Indian tribes from their ancestral homes.

Mankiller faces Eleanor Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks in the voting to replace Jackson.

You can vote here.

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Cannabis bill passes Senate committee

A bill that would allow medical treatment of some conditions using oil from the cannabis plant that also produces marijuana has passed an Oklahoma Senate committee by a vote of 9-0.

The bill will now head to the full Senate for a vote.

House Bill 2145, co-authored by State Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, and Senator Brian Crain, R-Tulsa, creates Katie and Cayman's Law, which would legalize clinical trials using CBD, a non-intoxicating derivative of marijuana. Previous medical studies indicate this product can be used to treat children and adults who suffer from epileptic seizures and help reduce the number and intensity of their seizures.

HB 2145 provides for a pilot program with the option for the Legislature to extend the initiative after the 2-year trial period expires in December 2017.

The bill passed in the House by a vote of 99-2 earlier this year and is now headed to a vote of the full Senate.

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Rocker to play Thursday night

The Oklahoma Music Hall of Fame will be hosting Kyle Williams Thursday April 9th, at 7 pm, for the weekly "Live at The Frisco Depot" concert series.

Williams has an extensive repertoire of music, including songs from Bob Marley Florida Georgia Line, Journey, Steve Miller Band, Johnny Cash, Maroon 5, Eli Young Band, Black Crows, The Temptations, Foo Fighters, Otis Redding, John Mayer, Queen, Train, U2, Amos Lee and many more.

The event will be held at The Frisco Depot, 401 S. 3rd in Muskogee. Doors open at 6:30, show starts at 7 pm. Admission is $5 at the door, and all ages are welcome.

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