OKLAHOMA CITY — It was the picture that seared its way onto front pages and television screens around the world--firefighter Chris Fields tenderly bearing a bloody baby from the wreckage left by the bomb attack on the federal building here.
But the hopes and prayers that rose spontaneously from the hearts of the millions who saw the photo all were in vain.
Minutes after the picture was taken, the child--identified late Thursday as Baylee Almon, a girl who had turned a year old just the day before the bombing--was pronounced dead by emergency workers.
Fields said police Sgt. John Avera handed him the child just after his unit arrived at the scene. Moments before, Avera had found the crying baby under a pile of bricks inside the building. The firefighter carried the bloodied and dust-covered baby to medical workers nearby.
Fields recalled that the baby's "little face was covered in insulation and dust. . . . I couldn't tell if the skull was cracked, but the head was cut open. It almost made you just want to throw up."
The firefighter said that all he could think about was his own 2-year-old son.
For the next 13 straight hours, he pulled the living and the dead from the rubble. Each time he stopped to catch his breath, Fields said, "the first thing that would come into my mind was that baby."
When he and the rest of his unit, Engine Co. 5, returned to their station late Wednesday night, he said they spent several hours talking about what they'd seen.
"Everybody at the station has kids--young kids," Fields said.
Elsewhere, there were glimmers of better news.
Jim Denny, the father of the then-unidentified red-haired toddler whose parents were frantically sought by television stations here Wednesday, found his daughter, Rebecca, at Southwest Medical Center. Her prognosis is good after life-saving surgery.
But in nearby Presbyterian Hospital, her 3-year-old brother, Brandon, who suffered traumatic head injuries, is in critical condition.