6 day care kids pulled from Oklahoma City bombing rubble tell their tale 20 years later

Heide Brandes , Rich Schapiro New York Daily News

OKLAHOMA CITY — Out of the rubble, they emerged: six mini-miracles.

Rescuers pulled out their tiny bodies — bloodied, battered and some gashed beyond recognition — after a massive bomb obliterated the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995.

Twenty years later, it remains the nation’s worst act of domestic terrorism. A total of 168 people were killed, and more than 800 others wounded.

The fertilizer-and-fuel bomb turned the nine-story federal office building into a tomb.

Fifteen children inside its second-floor day care center perished. Somehow, the six little ones survived.

Since bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed in June 2001 and his co-conspirator Terry Nichols was sentenced to 161 consecutive life terms in 2004, the youngest survivors have sought to forge normal lives.

Some grappled with debilitating injuries that persist today. Others battled deep emotional traumas that have long since been overcome.

These are their stories.


Like the rest of his former classmates, Webber has no recollections of that apocalyptic spring day.

But the damage he suffered is forever etched into his face in the form of a long, thin scar arcing from his left eye to his jawbone.

There’s still no escaping the questions from people curious about the wound.

“I first find out if they are from here,” Webber told the Daily News. “If they are, then I simply tell them that I was in the Oklahoma City bombing. It’s harder if they aren’t from Oklahoma.

“Then I have to explain about the bombing, about Timothy McVeigh and all that. But I don’t talk about how I was one of the kids in the bombing unless I’m asked about it.”

The bombing left Webber, then only a year old, with horrific injuries: two ruptured eardrums, a broken jaw and left arm, a concussion and multiple facial and body lacerations.

He’s now a junior at Oklahoma State University studying zoology. “I think about it every day, but mainly about how lucky I am to be alive,” he said. “I don’t remember it, but it’s only been in the last few years that it dawned on me how significant it was.”


As the story goes, Nguyen survived because he was playing in the bathroom when the bomb went off.

At 5 years old, Chris was the oldest of the six. He suffered a broken jaw, ruptured eardrums and brain trauma.

The emotional toll was just as severe: Nguyen was wracked by horrible nightmares for years. But he has since put the terror of that day behind him.

“Everyone here has moved on with our lives,” Nguyen said. “The bombing doesn’t overcast our lives. It’s something that happened, and it’s sad and melancholy, but we are good now. It’s been 20 years, and you learn to mourn and move on.”

Nguyen now holds a plum job as a guest-relations representative with the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 2012 with a degree in business administration and marketing.

“This tragedy doesn’t define us,” he said.

P.J. ALLEN, 21

Every day, Allen is reminded of the bombing that seared his infant lungs and scorched third-degree burns over half his body.

Behind his soft voice is a constant wheezing, a consequence of his damaged lungs.

“I had a tracheostomy until I was 13, and I still deal with different breathing problems,” Allen said. “I have no recollection of that day, but I’m reminded every day about it because of my breathing problems. It’s a lot easier to deal with now than when I was little, but I still have to do daily breathing treatments.”

Now a hotel and restaurant management major at Oklahoma State University, Allen dreams of someday managing a high-end hotel. For now, he’s gaining experience as a desk clerk at the Renaissance Hotel in Oklahoma City.

“I like working with people and meeting people from all over the world,” he said. “I like to talk to them and to help make their lives easier.”

Allen doesn’t plan to attend the 20th anniversary remembrance ceremony Sunday. He’s focused firmly on the future. “I’ll probably be working or studying,” he said.


The Dennys were the only pair of siblings from the day care center to survive the blast.

Brandon barely escaped with his life. After sustaining severe head trauma, he spent 126 days in the hospital and underwent four major brain surgeries.

“They couldn’t tell us whether he’d live for 30 days,” his father, Jim Denny, told The News. “And they said if he did live, he wouldn’t be able to walk or talk again.”

Twenty years later, Brandon is still suffering the effects of his brain injuries. He walks with a limp and doesn’t have full use of his right hand. He also suffers from seizures and struggles to speak.

“He’s such a sharp boy,” Jim Denny said. “He has a lot he wants to say, but he just has a hard time making those thoughts into words.”

Brandon is quick to laugh, however, and seemingly always smiling. His warm personality has made him a popular employee at the Goodwill outpost where he’s worked for the past three years alongside others with disabilities.

“He’s always had such a great attitude,” Jim Denny said. “Still, it has to be frustrating for him, but he never complains.”

The blast mangled Rebecca’s face and cut up her body. A piece of blue plastic that McVeigh used to pack his bombs sliced through her left cheek.

“She looked like a piece of raw meat,” said her mother, Claudia Denny.

Rebecca spent 10 days in the hospital and received 133 stitches from the neck up.

With her fiery red hair, Rebecca was one of the most recognizable of the wounded kids. But the Oklahoma State University senior, who now goes by Becca, decided against giving interviews this year.

“She’s ready to be known as just Becca, not the ‘Becca, one of the Denny kids who survived the bombing,’” her father said.

She’s also got quite a bit on her hands. Rebecca, who is earning her psychology degree, is prepping for a June wedding and planning a career in counseling.

Despite all the pain, all the surgeries and financial hardships brought on by the bombing, the Dennys count themselves lucky. “Looking at Brandon and Becca, if we had to change something, you know what we’d change? Nothing,” Jim Denny said. “They turned out fantastic.”


Like Brandon Denny, McCloud suffered severe head trauma in the blast.

She was forced to relearn how to walk and talk. On the surface, she now shows no signs of her devastating injuries.

But the developmental issues brought on by the bombing have persisted into adulthood.

At a recent reunion for the kids, McCloud largely hung back, rarely leaving her mother’s side. Her mother, Lavern McCloud, answered questions for her.

Still, Nekia has a job at the Dale Rogers Training Center and a slew of hobbies.

She loves to bowl and relishes trips to Oklahoma City’s Frontier City amusement park.

“We’re living as normal a life as we can,” Lavern McCloud said.

“It’s been a long journey,” she added. “But these days, life is good. Life is good.”

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