I had been an editor for six months.

I have still never covered a story that big, nor do I expect or hope to.

We were wrapping up the final stories and design of April 19, 1995 Chickasha Daily Express when the guys on the radio station I was listening to joked about feeling a jolt in their building. A few minutes later I was standing in front of the television in my office watching live reports with footage from the ground and helicopters circling around a building in downtown Oklahoma City.

An explosion had destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

Seconds turned into minutes and minutes became hours. We completely lost focus on everything else that was going on around us.

Nothing else seemed important.

We sent reporters to the scene that night. I went to the area myself a couple of times that week.

I had to see it for myself before I felt like I could report on it.

We talked to local families who had been ripped apart by this act of domestic terrorism. One family lost a grandfather, three young girls lost their mother, and another woman survived the blast but lost her toddler son who was in the daycare center near the impact of the explosion.

The hardest thing about the explosion might have been that this evil act wasn’t carried out by an enemy of the United States. All of this damage — buildings and lives ripped apart — was perpetrated by American citizens.

Fortunately for all of us, the geniuses who planned and carried out the attack that their feeble minds believed to bring justice for the Ruby Ridge and Waco Branch Davidian compound victims also used a getaway car that had no tag. Thanks to the vigilance of a highway patrol trooper and the courts, justice has been carried out in the case.

Over the years, I had visited the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial many times. It is a beautiful and haunting site that honors and remembers victims very well. The gates marking 9:01 a.m. as you enter and 9:03 a.m. as you leave are remarkable. The nine rows of chairs recognizing the victims on each of the nine floors of the building are touching. Reading the names on those chairs is a moving experience.

But it was more than 20 years after the event and 15 years after it opened that I visited the Oklahoma City Bombing Museum.

That was a mistake on my part.

All you have to do is sit down in the room where they replay the sounds of the explosion recorded during a Water Resources Board hearing that had just begun to be transported back to the event of that horrible day. The technologically-advanced museum does a great job of balancing the horror of the act with the heroism of the people who responded to it.

There was nothing Oklahomans could do to avoid this attack. But in the response to this attack and the swiftness of justice being served against those who planned and carried out this attack, Oklahoma was able to demonstrate what makes this state and its residents special.

The museum highlights the good and the bad from that day and the days that followed. It has been 21 years since that explosion rocked Oklahoma City, the state and the nation.

If you haven’t already, make it a point to spend a day at the memorial and museum. It is well worth your time.

— Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at kent.bush@news-star.com.