THE END OF INNOCENCE AGENCIES COPE WITH CRISIS

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In Oklahoma City, they all seem to know exactly what they were doing when the bomb went off.

"I was in a meeting with a client when the blast hit. It felt like a semi truck had been dropped on the building," said Peggy Sealy, director of public relations for Jordan Associates. "Our offices are about 7 miles away from downtown."

"I was on the phone with a client," said Jeff Smith, senior VP at Fellers & Co.

"We're 5 miles from downtown and the explosion shook the walls of our building and rattled the windows .*.*. Our offices face downtown and instantly we could see a huge plume of black smoke," he said.

Some of the 90 staffers at Ackerman & McQueen had neighbors and acquaintances in the federal building, said agency Chairman-CEO Angus McQueen.

"Almost every minute has been affected by the ongoing drama downtown," he said. "But we're open, we're working and we're working through it hour by hour."

Complicating matters for agency people was the sometimes formidable task of assisting clients whose business was affected by the explosion. "The bombing has had a substantial impact on a number of our clients," Mr. McQueen said. He declined to name them, but characterized them as utilities, banks and energy companies.

As a result of the destruction, some clients literally have been unable to function since the bombing, while others have been very involved in the rescue and cleanup operations. "We're dealing with each situation differently," Mr. McQueen said.

There was also the delicate issue of what to do about events and promotions already planned for the days immediately following the blast. Jordan Associates was discussing how to handle just such a situation with one client late last week.

"There's something inappropriate about a business-as-usual' attitude on the part of our clients," Mr. McQueen said. "No one is sure when it will be appropriate to resume normalcy here. There's going to be a prolonged period of mourning and an aftermath of grieving."

"We always talk about crisis communications," Ms. Sealy said. "Well, this time it dropped right in our laps."

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