Answers to a Prayer

updated 05/15/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/15/1995 AT 01:00 AM EDT

JIM DENNY STILL REMEMBERS HIS terror when he learned of the explosion at the federal building. He had two children at the daycare center—red-haired Rebecca, 2, and her brother Brandon, 3. Rushing to the blast scene, the 50-year-old toolmaker was stunned by the sight of the smoldering ruins. "I thought I was looking at a parking garage," he says. "I thought a nine-story building had disappeared."

Numbed, he roamed the bomb site and came across his wife, Claudia, a 36-year-old IRS staffer who worked a few blocks away. Together they went to the nearby Red Cross center to wait for news. Suddenly one of the local TV broadcasters reported that an unidentified girl with long, red hair was undergoing surgery at Southwest Medical Center. "There's only one of those," he told his wife. Indeed, Rebecca was there, with severe cuts on her face and mouth and burns on one arm. Though badly hurt, she would recover, doctors said. At that point, Denny recalls thinking, "I was missing a son. God had given me one miracle. Why not throw two my way?"

Several hours later came the second miracle. The Dennys heard that an unidentified boy with strawberry-blond hair was in surgery at Presbyterian Hospital. It was Brandon; a piece of debris had blown a hole the size of a quarter into his skull, and doctors were removing damaged brain tissue.

Since then the Dennys have lived through both relief and anxiety, as Claudia stayed with Rebecca at one hospital and Jim watched over Brandon at another. The boy is now alert and can move his limbs, though he remains in critical condition. Rebecca was released from the hospital on April 29 and is back at home. So far, says Denny, "she has not said one word about the blast."

Last week the boy received two special visitors, his mother's coworkers Edye Smith (whose sons, Chase, 3, and Colton, 2, died in the explosion) and her mother, Kathy Graham-Wilburn. "At times I feel guilty," Denny says he told the bereaved women. But, he says, they told him to be happy about his blessings. It's a thought Denny shares. "I feel like the most fortunate man in the world."

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