Walter Lamar
Oklahoma Memorial and Museum Archivist Pam Bell, left, Museum Collections Manager Helen Steifmiller, right, accept the Shield of Bravery Award given to Walter Lamar by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for “life saving deeds” in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Kicking Down Doors: Retired FBI Agent Walter Lamar Remembers

Christina Rose
3/4/14

During the 18 years of Walter Lamar’s career with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, he responded to the Rodney King riots  Los Angeles, partipated in the Branch Davidian standoff at Waco, Texas, and responded to the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, for which he was awarded an FBI Shield of Bravery for “life saving deeds.”

Amy Petty-Downs was one of two survivors rescued from the Oklahoma building. She remembers being trapped in the rubble, not being able to see anything. The floor had suddenly given way and she fell three floors while still in her chair. “I didn’t think I was going to make it out alive,” she said.

It took four hours before Down’s rescuers, including Lamar, could see her, and another two hours before she was free. “The first thing I saw was someone’s boots,” Downs remembered. “I reached through the rubble and grabbed that boot, and held on.”

The 13 FBI agents who responded that day received the bravery award. In the history of the medal, only two people have received two of the awards. Lamar is one of those two. In the following interview, Lamar talks about the Oklahoma bombing, the experiences of being an FBI agent.

Why did you decide to give your award to the Oklahoma Memorial and Museum?

I made the decision to give one of those medals to the museum. They were made specifically for those FBI agents at the Oklahoma City bombing, and there are only 13 of those in the world. It was almost too much responsibility to keep. What if there was a burglary or a fire, God forbid?  I did it so the award would be kept in a safe place. My kids were saying, “Why didn’t you give it to us?” And I said, “Really? Are you gonna put it on the mantelpiece or on a shelf, or is it going to end up in a box somewhere?” Then you have the responsibility.

I gave the museum a lot more than the medal, there were handwritten notes I did right after I left the bombing that day. But the agreement is that anytime my children or grandchildren come here and want to see the collection, they can be taken down to the bowels of the museum and can see that.

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