2012 Olympics | July 27 - August 12
Posted: Tuesday July 24, 2012 12:03PM ; Updated: Tuesday July 24, 2012 12:35PM
Nick Zaccardi
Nick Zaccardi>INSIDE OLYMPICS

Centennial Olympic Park bombing oral history (cont.)

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Atlanta Olympics
Despite the bombing, Atlanta organizers declared that the Atlanta Games would continue.
Doug Mills/AP

Rollins: He pretty much ran into the front lobby of the building as the last couple of copy editors were leaving for the night, and he's like, "Stop the presses! Stop the presses! There's been an explosion!"

Patrick: I don't know if I actually yelled "Stop the presses." But I definitely remember yelling, "There's a bomb in the park." One of the copy editors was still there, walking. They stopped, and they kind of looked at me like, "Oh my God. Is this guy crazy?"

Rollins: Pat [Rini] and I were afraid. We didn't see any other reporters, so were afraid that if the cops realized that we were reporters, they would toss us out of the park.

Gray: They tried to throw me out of there 10 times.

Rollins: We hid our press badges in our pockets, and we sort of wandered from one little cluster of people to another, saying, "Hey, we're with the press. Please don't tell them who we are. Can we just talk to you and find out who you are, what you saw, what you heard and how badly hurt you are?"

Patrick: When he [Ron] came back [to the newspaper office], he had all these little bits of garbage he had written stuff on.

Myers: I think we did a report at 8 or 9 in the morning once things had calmed down, and then I remember them saying, "OK, you're clear." They throw me back to the Olympic rental house we were staying at. I crashed. I think I slept for, I don't know, it seemed like the next 48 hours.

Storm: We were filling air time until Tom Brokaw could be woken up out of bed and also like physically get from his hotel to where we were at the broadcast center. ... And then we had the Janet Evans video.

Evans: Most of the [messages] I remember were like, A) Are you OK? B) Is everyone else OK? C) We know you're OK because we saw you survive it on TV. Because what happened was the German reporter literally took the tape, ran out of the building and ran to CNN. CNN had that video running in like 10 minutes. ... I've seen it many times, and I hate watching it. It's not a happy memory.

Rini: All these thoughts go through your head. Are they going to cancel the Games? What's going to happen?

Lampley: When I walked away from the set that night, what I was thinking was, are the Games going to continue? Yes, I think they probably will. What kind of show are we going to be doing tomorrow?

Andrew Young (Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games co-chairman): My first reaction was, my gosh, is this going to set off a chain reaction?

Gray: You just don't know when the next bomb's going to go off. Is it going to be next to you? A block from you? Are they setting booby traps for when people run in? You don't know. It this car that's parked here ... you know, you start thinking things you would never think.

Rollins: I remember calling my wife in Dayton when I thought she'd be up, like around 5 [a.m.] or so, and waking her up and saying, "When you catch the news, there was an explosion in the park. I was there. We covered it. We got the story, but I'm OK." Of course, her first words were, "I'm glad you're fine, but did it occur to you there could have been another bomb?" I had to be honest with her. I told her, "Yeah, we did think about that, and we went anyway."

A Changed Games

Billy Payne (Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games (ACOG) chief executive officer): My wife picked up the phone, said, Hello, and she never said another thing. She just gave me the phone, but she had that look of shock on her face as she did so. A.D. [Frazier, Atlanta Committee for the Olympic Games chief operating officer] said, "Get back to the office immediately. There's been a bombing." I, of course, as anybody would, immediately inquired about the details, and his response was, "Get over here."

Frazier: Billy told me to call [International Olympic Committee president Juan Antonio] Samaranch. Which I did.

Payne: The attorney general was on the phone. The director of the FBI. The mayor of Atlanta. The Governor of Georgia. The head of the IOC. Ultimately the subject comes up about whether or not we should postpone or even cancel the Games. Everybody was going back and forth. Never was there unanimity in the first 45 minutes. Some would take the position that we must, of course, at least postpone until we identify the magnitude of the threat. If, in fact, this is a threat. Every possible scenario was laid on the table.

Frazier: We agreed that the Games would continue, and we would have a press conference at 6 a.m. to announce that.

The Olympics continued, but Centennial Park was closed for three days and reopened July 30.

Rini: It wasn't the same after that. It was very mellow.

Davis: If we could go back and they could do it all again, if we could have had the luxury of having the bag checks and bag searches of people coming to and from the park, then I think that may have changed the outcome of all of that. Of course, you know, we recommended that, but that was shot down early on in the Games.

Rudolph: After it exploded, I went back to the vacant lot. I had four other bombs all prepared. So, I detonated them in the garbage. I couldn't go on. ... I said to to hell with this, you know. It was just a complete disaster. I wasn't going to chance it happening again.

Hawthorne: There was no doubt in my mind that if I had been there, I would have been in front of [Alice] and Fallon, but I wasn't there. I beat myself up for many, many years, and it really took some time for me to stop blaming myself.

Richard Jewell, who was working as an Olympic security guard, spotted the knapsack that contained the bomb, and called it to the attention of the police. he also started moving visitors away from the area. But Jewell was later identified in an article in The Atlanta Journal as the subject of police attention. He spent what he called "88 days of hell" from the night he found the bomb in Centennial Park to the day he was cleared in the investigation, nearly three months fearing he would be arrested for a crime he didn't commit. His mother, whom he shared an apartment with during that time, used the same words 16 years later. "I don't think the television was shut off for the 88 days he was in the apartment. I call it 88 days of hell. If I ever write a book, that's what it's going to be." Jewell died at age 44 in 2007. The New York Times, in its obit, led with the headline Richard Jewell, 44, Hero of Atlanta Attack, Dies

Barbara Jewell (Richard Jewell's mother): To this day, even though he's deceased [Richard Jewell died of natural causes in August 2007], his wife [Dana] takes a yellow rose and puts it [where Alice Hawthorne was killed] in honor of her, and she does one for Richard. Richard would go down on the night of the 27th, whenever it happened, he would wait until the park almost closed and put a rose in memory of [Hawthorne].

Scott: It hurts my heart that somebody like that [Rudolph] is out there doing those things in the name of some sort of twisted belief. It wrecked that thing for everybody. It just kind of put a taint on it.

Jewell: I personally would like to hang him [Rudolph], instead of my taxes paying to keep him alive.

Davis: Before the bombing, I know we had over 100 people involved in security at the park. It probably more than doubled after the bombing.

Payne: One of the most profound moments of my life came that morning. I walked into the Thomas Murphy Ballroom at the Georgia World Congress Center. That's where the volunteers signed in every day. I walked in there, and almost all 5,000 volunteers were there. Not just the shift that was due to report, but all of the volunteers. I can't even describe how my knees were shaking. It was an attempt to state that no one will be allowed to disrupt this wonderful celebration that was had been having for the previous week. This great display of humanity coming together, despite all that otherwise divides us. Up until that moment, the park had been the greatest manifestation of that.

Sixteen years later, it's hard to find any markings of that night walking through the busy areas of 21-acre Centennial Olympic Park. The area is now known as the Quilt of Remembrance, and it borders the East fence of the park, hidden by trees, bushes and the hum of Centennial Olympic Park Drive traffic. The quilt is a mosaic of stones in the center of a diamond-shaped plaza -- 111 stones for the 111 people injured that night -- surrounded by etched quotes from Bill Clinton, Billy Payne and this from Andrew Young, "We will remember ... not hatred, not bitterness, not alienation ... but joy and happiness ... We still love this park."

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