Advertisement

Kindness of Strangers : Altruism: Donna Jackson of Laquna was so moved by the story of one Oklahoma City bombing victim, who lost her two children and mother in the blast, that she established a trust fund for her. Months after the tragedy, the two women meet.

August 01, 1995|TAMMY LECHNER | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Donna Jackson stares out the window as the early morning light washes over the Oklahoma landscape below. The red-eye flight from California back to her native state has been filled with emotional conversations and bouts of tears.

"I'm clear now on why I'm doing this," says Jackson of her trip and efforts on behalf of Daina Bradley of Oklahoma City. "What moved me and made me so sad was that anyone would want to hurt Daina . . . or anyone else."

Jackson, 42, had been traveling from her Laguna Beach home to a business seminar in La Jolla when she heard the tragic news on her car radio the morning of April 19: A bomb blast had torn through the federal building in downtown Oklahoma City.

Her nephew Chuck Jackson was in and out of that very building every day as an attorney for the state of Oklahoma.

In a panic, she "drove across five lanes of traffic in about five seconds," Jackson says. After some frantic phone calls, she learned that her nephew was en route to San Francisco on a business trip. But there was someone else at the Alfred P. Murrah Building that morning whose fate would deeply affect Donna Jackson, would compel her to act.

*

Daina Bradley, 20, had gone to the federal building that day to register her 3-month-old son, Gabreon, for a Social Security card. Accompanying Bradley and her son were her 3-year-old daughter, Peachlyn, her mother, Cheryl Hammons, and her sister, Falesha.

"That day . . ." Bradley says nearly three months after the fact, "I thought it was just a regular day. That day . . . I thought I'd be going home with my children."

Instead, the blast robbed Bradley of both children and her mother. Her sister lost an ear and suffered severe inner-ear damage. And it took Bradley's right leg, which rescuers amputated in order to free her from the rubble.

A stunned nation watched as the death toll rose to 168, as the number of injured was put at 500, as the stories of Bradley and the other innocents became known.

"Oh, God, it just freaked me out," Jackson recalls of the news unfolding. "I just wanted to be there, picking up the rubble . . . anything. I couldn't stand not being there, and I stayed awake all night wondering what to do . . . searching for something. When I heard about Daina, it was real clear to me that helping her was the thing."

What Jackson did was establish a trust fund for Bradley at a Great Western Bank in Huntington Beach.

"I had no idea how to do this," she says. "I just went to the bank and told them this is what I want to do, and they helped me."

Jackson put $100 into the fund to get it started and did all she could to publicize it. Within several days, the balance grew as donations accompanied by cards and letters came pouring into the bank.

Meanwhile, Jackson began to get acquainted with Bradley via telephone calls to the Sabolich Prosthetic Research Center in Oklahoma City, where the young woman was being treated.

When the Daina Bradley Fund topped $19,000 in early July, Jackson made plans for a trip to Oklahoma. The two women could meet, and Jackson would be able set up transfer of the donated funds into a nonprofit foundation with specifications that the money be used exclusively for Bradley's prosthetic costs.

The Sabolich center had already taken care of Bradley's initial costs by offering one year of free treatment. However, continued care, including prosthetic replacements, could involve a recurring cost of $35,000 or more every few years.

As Jackson was preparing for her trip, she filled a box with cards and letters from donors, including one from herself, and shipped the package to Bradley.

"It was really important to me that Daina know I'm not just some woman behind a desk," Jackson says. "I wanted Daina to know where I'm coming from, where I've been."

Jackson told Bradley that she is a Native American, adopted at birth by parents who both died by the time she was 11. She told her that her adoptive father had lost a leg during World War II, that she worked as a prosthetist, had endured an extended illness and had lost all her belongings two years ago, when the home she was living in burned to the ground in the Laguna Beach fire.

"I had little at the time," Jackson said in her letter to Bradley, "and afterward I had less. But I learned how to rely on the kindness of strangers, and it has helped me get through some things.

"I've decided to help you, Daina, because I know it is hard to get beyond some things . . . but I want so much to see you go on, " she wrote.

Jackson says that although she has spoken with Bradley by phone, the conversations have been fairly guarded.

"And I really have no expectations," Jackson says as the airplane taxis toward the arrival gate. "I want the whole ball in Daina's court. I feel I'm nothing more than a conduit through which all these other people are enabled to reach out to Daina and help."

Over the past few months, Jackson's main link to Bradley has been Carol Sorrels, spokeswoman for the Sabolich center. Sorrels is at the airport to meet Jackson.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|