Houston customs agent helped families of Oklahoma City bombing victims

Sunday marks 20th anniversary of attack on Murrah Federal Building

By Bill Balleza - Anchor

OKLAHOMA CITY - When a bomb went off at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in 1995, Houston customs agent Jim Martin was in charge of security for that building.

Related: Oklahoma City gets ready to remember bombing anniversary

Within hours, Martin and some of his coworkers were in Oklahoma City to assist in the rescue efforts.

"I remember seeing my coworker and his shirt was covered in blood from the victims that he was bringing to safety," Martin said.

Ultimately, Martin took over efforts to coordinate with the families of customs agents Paul Ice and Claude Medaris.

Twenty years later, Martin and Medaris' daughter, Catherine Alaniz-Simonds, reunited at the permanent memorial site where the Murrah building once stood.

"It was comforting to know that we had people on our side that were looking for my dad and Paul," said Alaniz-Simonds.

It was several days before she actually learned her dad's fate. She held onto hopes that maybe he had just hit his head and he couldn't remember where he was and he was out wandering around.

Unfortunately, Medaris had died and Martin broke the news to Alaniz-Simonds.

She said it was because Martin was there to comfort them that he became part of their family.

When they reunited on Saturday, with smiles and well-wishes, it was hard to tell that tragedy had brought them together in the first place.

"It's just amazing, it's an honor and a pleasure to be with you, Cat," Martin told her.

He said he plans to sit with all of the surviving members of Medaris' family at the memorial ceremony Sunday morning to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the bombing.

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