Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Oklahoma Bomb Survivors Find Refuge in Work

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Oklahoma Bomb Survivors Find Refuge in Work

Article excerpt

Florence Rogers has attended her last funeral, said her last goodbye to 18 co-workers, and now she's immersed in her own brand of therapy: work.

"I'd be pacing the floor if I wasn't here," she said, clutching a cellular phone, sifting through a pile of phone messages. "I think this is what has kept me strong. We hug each other every time we see each other."

Rogers heads the Federal Employees Credit Union, which lost 18 workers - all women - of 33 staffers on duty when the bomb ripped apart the government office building. Two of the dead remain entombed in the rubble.

Nearly four weeks later, the credit union - which reopened in temporary headquarters within 48 hours of the blast - has nine of its survivors back on the job, healing their wounds by tending to the business of others.

"It's painful," said Bobbi Purvine, a 24-year-old teller who suffered minor injuries in the bombing, which killed 168 people. "But now it's up to us - the ones who are left behind - to be a team and carry on."

While hundreds of workers from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building - which was home to more than a dozen federal agencies - are still struggling with the trauma of the bombing, others are slowly trickling back to jobs in makeshift offices around the city.

"There are a lot of people out there who want to come back to work," said Stephen Weatherford, a representative for Housing and Urban Development Secretary Henry Cisneros. "I think we really underestimated their desire to be here. We really don't have enough space for them."

V.Z. Lawton, a HUD housing inspector, is one of about 20 workers who have returned on a limited basis.

"One thing that's going to help is we're not going back in the same building," he said. "You're not going to have to look at an empty chair. There are going to be times when you think about it. But you try not to."

HUD, which lost 35 of 124 employees in the April 19 bombing, has moved to a downtown building; staffers have come from other cities to help out, while some work was shifted to offices in Tulsa, Okla., and Fort Worth, Texas.

The Social Security Administration, where about 40 workers, customers and a volunteer were killed, will reopen a new office on May 22; much of the agency's business is being handled by phone or mail. …

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