Sharon Coyne still running for Jaci Rae

After losing her daughter in the Oklahoma City bombing, Coyne started a new chapter in her life. Now she is returning to Oklahoma, to run the half-marathon in memory of her daughter.
by Jenni Carlson Published: April 22, 2014
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Nineteen Aprils have passed since Sharon Coyne grabbed the hand of a co-worker and ran. Ran out of the Federal Court House where they worked. Ran across the street to the Murrah Building where smoke was rising.

She ran to try and get to her daughter.

Jaci Rae was at the America’s Kids daycare.

Seven agonizing days later, rescue workers found the 14-month-old’s body, and Sharon’s life would never be the same.

This April, she will run again through the streets of Oklahoma City, but this time, it will be in the half marathon at the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. The event will be demanding. The day will be emotional.

Just being near the memorial is difficult for Sharon.

“I know that there are family members ... who have been able to remain involved,” she said. “But I really couldn’t. It was too much. It would consume my every thought and every emotion.”

But Sunday, she will run in memory of Jaci. She will run, too, so that others might know about her daughter.

***

Sharon Kidd was born in Oklahoma City and raised in Moore, but when she was 19 years old, she decided to venture into the world and joined the Army. She wanted to be a Russian linguist. The Cold War had yet to thaw. The Berlin Wall still stood. That meant there was plenty of intrigue involved in that kind of work.

During her training, Sharon met Scott Coyne. He also wanted to be a Russian linguist, and they just kept getting stationed in the same places.

“It was fate,” Sharon said.

They married in 1991 while stationed in Germany, where the Berlin Wall had recently come down. A couple years later, they finished their active duty requirement, decided to join the reserves and moved back to the States.

Before settling permanently in Oklahoma, they spent some time visiting Scott’s family in Florida. It was so much warmer and stickier there than it had been in Germany that when Sharon started feeling ill, she chalked it up to the climate change.

Instead, she was pregnant.

Sharon and Scott decided that they weren’t going to find out the baby’s gender beforehand. Scott wanted a boy. And in an attempt not to get her hopes up for a girl, Sharon convinced herself that she was having a boy.

Even as Sharon was prepped for a Cesarean section — complications late in what had been an otherwise healthy pregnancy necessitated a C-section — a nurse looking at the monitors commented that it looked like they’d be having a boy.

Instead, Jaci Rae was born on Feb. 9, 1994.

Sharon was thrilled. She treasured the relationship she had with her mom, so she loved the opportunity to have the same connection with her daughter.

Jaci loved being held by her mama. Her dada, too. Actually, she loved being held by just about anyone. She was never shy, and her big blue eyes made her impossible to resist.

A few months after Jaci was born, Sharon got a job at the Federal Court House working as a file clerk. She always wanted to work for the federal government; her mom had been a longtime federal employee, and when her dad got sick, her mom’s co-workers had been so good to their family.

Jaci went to an in-home daycare for several months, but Sharon put her on the waiting list at America’s Kids. It was right across the street from her work. It would save so much time if she could drop off Jaci there. And if Sharon wanted to visit her during the day, she could.

In late March, America’s Kids called. It had an opening for Jaci.

Three weeks later, that explosives-filled truck blew up right outside the daycare.

***

Sharon felt the explosion. Heard it, too.

She didn’t know what it was, but when she and her co-workers were led out of the court house, she could see the black smoke rising from the other side of the Murrah Building. Co-worker and friend Kari Butler was standing beside her.

“Jaci is in the daycare,” Sharon said.

Kari grabbed her hand, and together, they ran across the street to see if they could get to the daycare.

People walked toward them covered in blood and sheet-rock dust, but at least they were walking. That was a good sign, right?

Sharon and Kari never got to the daycare. Too much debris. Too many first responders.

They were eventually pointed to the First Christian Church. They waited for information, for news, but what they saw on television was gut-wrenching. They saw the devastation. They saw the evil.

Eventually, they decided to drive to several hospitals in search of Jaci. Maybe someone had found her. Maybe she was somewhere asking for her mama, needing someone to hold her.

That night after Sharon returned to the church and her family arrived, they finally made the agonizing decision to go home. As they made their way onto the highway, Sharon could better see the collapsed side of the Murrah building.

“And because it had happened at 9 and it was almost 9 when we were going home that night, I knew that she was in a dirty diaper and it had begun to rain,” Sharon would say when she testified in the case against Terry Nichols. “And I thought that maybe she was exposed to the rain and that she was hungry and that she wanted me.”

A week later, Sharon and Scott got the news that Jaci’s body had been found in the rubble.

“I was very lucky,” Sharon said during her testimony. “I got to hold Jaci.”

A beautiful receiving blanket made by one of Sharon’s friends wrapped and covered Jaci’s body.

“She made my entire life complete,” Sharon said, “and she filled any hole I had left.

“And now, it’s just gone.”

***

Reminders of Jaci were everywhere. On TV. In music. All around the neighborhood.

There were tulips at the neighbor’s house, and every time they bloomed, they reminded Sharon of the time that Jaci toddled over to them. Sharon was sure Jaci was going to grab them and pull them out of the ground.

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by Jenni Carlson
Columnist
Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football...
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