Like many people, John Corn’s life changed on April 19, 1995.
The then-sergeant at the Yukon Police Department was preparing to appear in court when a Ryder truck exploded outside of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.
The resulting devastation left 168 people dead and countless others injured.
At least six Yukon residents were victims of the explosion, including a reserve Yukon police officer.
John Youngblood, 52, had been a reserve officer for Yukon for three years. He was employed by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
He is listed as the 168th person to die as a result of the bombing. He died about three weeks after the bombing of complications from smoke inhalation.
Corn, who now is Yukon’s police chief, said he and seven officers, including the recently retired Maj. Mitch Hoskins, were assigned to assist the Oklahoma City Police Department in the aftermath of the bombing, which occurred at 9:02 a.m.
Corn said each of the officers has previously been scheduled for court or other duties, but were asked to help Oklahoma City after their court appearances were cancelled.
Yukon officers helped secure the perimeter near the Murrah Building.
Corn said that while he had seen video footage of the scene, nothing could have prepared him for what the officers would find when they arrived on the scene.
“Most of the buildings that were further north of where we were, all the windows were gone. They were all blown out,” he said.
After securing the perimeter, Corn said he and the other Yukon officers waited for assignments.
They were on the scene for eight hours that first day.
“I had never seen anything like it, and I still haven’t in my career,” Corn said.
Corn said that while he has seen videos of mass shootings and other horrific crimes, what happened in downtown Oklahoma City is different.
“As horrific as those are, it is different watching it on television as it being reported because it is on the other side of the country and having stood in the street, of an intersection, and looked at what you used to know as a building and it not be recognizable. The sheer impact of seeing half of the structure gone, and you know that is not how it is supposed to look. That was pretty enormous,” the chief said.
He said it has had an impact on the department.
“It is different to watch some of these tragic things unfold when they are not in your back yard. When it happens and it is right here. … I understand what all those folks go through when there is a large scale, major tragedy. We know what that is like because we have done it. I don’t wish it on anybody. It is not an easy thing to go through or to work through,” Corn said.
He only worked at the scene that one day, but he took lessons away from it that have helped the Yukon Police Department in the years since.
“Your vision is expanded because of experiences like that. I don’t think I get too narrowly focused on how to prepare for a response, whether that is right now during severe weather season or what would happen with an active shooter at one of our schools. I’ve got to witness and be a part of a large-scale incident. You can’t plan far enough ahead and with a wide enough scope to be able to fully prepare.
“Having that hind-sight allows you to be close, and that is what it has done for me,” Corn said.