State Archives observes 25th anniversary of Cokeville bombing with oral history

On the 25th anniversary of the Cokeville, Wyoming Elementary School bombing incident, the Wyoming State Archives announces the completion of a recent oral history project featuring the remembrances of many involved in the crisis of May 16, 1986.

In September of 2010, Sue Castaneda, program coordinator for Wyoming State Parks and Cultural Resources, and Mark Junge, Wyoming oral historian, traveled to Cokeville to capture the remembrances of some of the people who were, in one way or another, part of a life-changing event that rocked the peace and security of this small Wyoming town.

It began as a man and his wife held hostage 154 children, teachers and visitors in the community’s elementary school. This story shocked the nation as a whole school was forced into a crowded classroom with a bomb as an armed man and his accomplice terrorized their captives for three hours. The bomb did detonate and fire; thick black smoke and toxic fumes filled the room. Although many were burned, some severely, only the perpetrators of this horrible incident died. One of the miracles that day was that not a single person held captive was lost. Other miracles were reported and some of those are recorded in this compilation.

Castaneda and Junge interviewed three former teachers, four former students, the bomb technician, the lead investigator, parents and the first responder to the scene.

“It is an important chapter in Wyoming history and we are grateful to the interviewees involved for allowing us to capture their memories of this event. Most people do not realize it was the first-ever school hostage situation,’ Castaneda said. “It is such an amazing and beautiful story.  But you have to hear it to understand why!”

Each of the oral history interviews along with a written transcript is available online at www.wyospcr.org. A podcast compilation of the interviews is also available online titled “Survivor is My Name.” The project was funded by the Wyoming Cultural Trust Fund.


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