Oklahoma City police personnel join memorial marathon
On the morning of April 19, 1995, Santa Fe patrol officer Greg Giltner was en route to the downtown police station.
He was at SW 20 and Western Avenue at 9:02 a.m.
"I heard it and felt something. I looked to my northeast and that's when I saw the plume go up," Giltner, 58, said of the Oklahoma City bombing.
He made a brief stop at the Civic Center to help people there, then continued toward the devastation.
"I ended up driving north and parked. Sixth and Hudson was as close as I could get. I did not like how the north side looked. It had that great big slab hanging."
By the time he was relieved from duty about 7:30 p.m., he had carried the bodies of five children and an adult from the debris.
"It was a Wednesday night. I met my family at church. I came in late. My kids would have been 7, 4, and 1. I had to go in and give my kids a hug. I'd seen dead kids, dismembered kids, kids that you couldn't tell what race or sex they were. I interrupted Bible class to give my kids a hug," he said.
Giltner later became the department chaplain, retiring in January 2015. Except for leading the prayer on the 19th anniversary of the bombing, he hasn't returned.
"I did the opening prayer down there, but as soon as the prayer was done, I left," Giltner said. "I've avoided anything that had to do with any memorials down there."
On Sunday, Giltner, who is now police chief at Oklahoma Christian University, will be wearing an Oklahoma City Police Department shirt when he participates in the 5K of the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.
"They've asked me to meet at the central police station, and they've asked me to lead the prayer in that. They kind of want an old hat down there, so I've agreed to do that," he said.
Officer Ashley Copeland was in fourth grade at Schwartz Elementary in southeast Oklahoma City when the Ryder truck full of fertilizer exploded downtown.
"We did not hear or feel the blast. I remember the teachers turning on TVs and telling us about it," she said. "There was a kind of surrealism, and the first realization that there was bad in the world."
Copeland, 32, has made it her life's work mitigating those bad things, first as a federal law officer for the Department of Veterans Affairs and now as a patrol officer in the Southwest Division.
"I loved law enforcement, and I knew it was always something I wanted to do. It was the desire that made me buckle down and get in shape and feel better and do better at that," Copeland said.
She volunteered as a teen at the marathon's medical tent, she said.
Copeland has been with the department nearly three years, and lost about 100 pounds so she could enforce the streets of Oklahoma City. This will be her third consecutive half-marathon, a span of 13.1 miles.
"It was one of my bucket list items. Now that I've started it, it's one of those things I do every year," she said. "After running the first one, the energy of our marathon is so amazing, it makes you want to do it again."
This year, her 8-year-old daughter, Brooklyn, will be joining her.
"She was so excited. She wanted to run it this year, so I signed her up for the kids run," Copeland said.
"It seems to bring the city together. We're one whole entity. Maybe one year I'll do the full marathon just to challenge myself."
Giltner and Copeland are two of the Oklahoma City Police Department personnel participating in this year's marathon.
Full marathon runners:
Half marathon runners:
Half marathon walkers: