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New Movie in the Making to Document the “Cokeville Miracle”

Buhla Teichert helps pedestrians cross the street as Cokeville returns to normal after the bombing. Bill Wilcox photo, Casper Star-Tribune Collection, Casper College Western History Center.

Buhla Teichert helps pedestrians cross the street as Cokeville returns to normal after the bombing. Bill Wilcox photo, Casper Star-Tribune Collection, Casper College Western History Center.

Angie Denison, KSL

On May 16, 1986, David and Doris Young stormed into Cokeville Elementary in Cokeville, Wyoming, and took the entire student body hostage and then set off a bomb. It’s something the tiny community will never forget and an incident filmmaker T.C. Christensen is documenting.

Ron Hartley was an investigator for the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office at the time and he remembers the day very clearly. “I didn’t even know anything about the bombing until I drove up on the scene. My heart just sank because I knew I had four children in there.”

As he arrived on scene, it was a mass of confusion. He said, “There were little kids, lots of little kids coming out, and they were black with smoke. Their faces were tear streaked through the smoke. It was total chaos. The ceiling lights were all blown out and the TV was all melted. There were pockmarks on the wall and the explosion went straight up through the ceiling instead of going out.”

The bomb investigator had no explanation for why the bomb went up instead of out. Hartley said, “When I walked up towards him, he just said, ‘Hartley, I’m not a religious man,’ but he said this is a miracle. If this had gone off the way it was intended to go off, it would have leveled this school and there would be a lot of dead children.”

After the Youngs set off the bomb, miraculously the only people killed in the blast were them. In the days following the explosion, many of the children in the room reported seeing guardian angels present in the room at the time of the bombing. Ron Hartley’s boy was one of them

Hartley said, “I asked, ‘What happened at the bombing, son?’ And he said there were angels there. There were angels for everybody.”

Hartley’s son told him as the bomb went off the angels surrounded the explosion and went up through the ceiling with the blast and then came back down. His son had no idea that the bomb investigator was perplexed about how the bomb went up instead of out. After hearing his son’s explanation of events, Hartley was convinced his boy spoke the truth.

This is the event Christensen plans to highlight on the big screen.

Christensen said, “The thing that first attracted me to this story idea was just the fact that you have a school room full of 154 people and a bomb goes off and the only people that die are the perpetrators, all the innocents get out. Just that is pretty incredible, but this story goes way beyond even that.”

It’s not the violence and mayhem that Christensen is focusing on, but rather the miracles surrounding the event. He says the major theme of the film is that people realized through this incident that they were not alone, that God was involved and watching out for them.

Amid the chaos and confusion of the movie set a sense of healing has also been taking place. Survivors from the original hostage situation have gone there and have found healing.

Kamron Wixom was a sixth-grade student at Cokeville Elementary at the time of the bombing. He has been on the movie set and said, “I gave 17 pages of journal notes that I compiled together and tried to remember everything I could and handed it over to T.C. Whether it was for him or for me, I needed to write it down. It made it so that the experience for me became a third-person thing that I could look at as if I was watching a movie.”

Not everyone involved with the Cokeville bombing is happy about the making of this movie, but Christensen is hopeful that good will come from telling this story. He said, “I think it’s a great film about hope. I think that we are in need of seeing that we’re not alone and not that every incident ends as well as this incident ended but that we can see we’re not alone.”

The working title for the movie is “The Cokeville Miracle,” and Christensen says to watch for it to be released sometime between March and July of next year.

Contact Angie Denison at: adenison@ksl.com

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