DANVILLE, Ky. (FOX 56) – Tuesday marks the 25th anniversary of the Olympic bombing during the 1996 games in Atlanta. The tragedy killed one person directly, one indirectly, and left hundreds injured.
A Kentucky pastor remembers her time as a chaplain at one of the Atlanta hospitals. She recalls having to comfort the injured patients that rolled into the ER.
“25 years ago I was serving as a student chaplain at the old Georgia Baptist Hospital in downtown Atlanta,” said Pastor Caroline Kelly with Presbyterian Church of Danville.
Pastor Kelly recalls her summer job during the Olympics of 1996. She just finished her first year at seminary. Going into her stint as chaplain at the Georgia hospital, she thought her biggest issue would be traffic.
“They had scared us so much about driving that the traffic was phenomenally quiet,” Pastor Kelly said.
Unbeknownst to Pastor Kelly, there would be a more pressing issue.
“I was asleep and it happened in the middle of the night. I got a call from one of my fellow chaplains at the hospital saying I have to come in and I thought he was kidding, and he says ‘no I’m really not kidding and there’s been a bombing,’” Pastor Kelly said.
She says at the time the hospital didn’t fully know the scope of the injuries.
“I don’t think they knew what they were dealing with, how many people were hurt, how seriously they were hurt, how many people died at that point,” Pastor Kelly said.
Alice Hawthorne died from the blast. She was 44 years old.
“The most dramatic thing that happened there for us, I was called to be present with the family of the woman when they came to the hospital,” Pastor Kelly said.
She can’t forget Hawthorne’s husband.
“I remember more than anything just the complete devastation that we all felt knowing that this man is coming to the hospital to hear that his wife died,” Pastor Kelly said.
She was not only there to pray for the patients, but to comfort the staff as well.
“That’s my biggest recollection being there, you know we are with you,” Pastor Kelly said.
Pastor Kelly was scheduled to work in the hospital for that summer, but ended up staying another full year.
“It did appear to me I found that I could be calm in an emotional, upsetting time and I felt called to stay and learn more about how to do that,” she said.
The FBI arrested Eric Rudolph seven years after the bombing.