Teacher shares experience at Centennial Park bombing

Kay Newsome describes the events depicted in new "Richard Jewell" movie.


Atlanta Magazine

Picture of Centennial Park before the bombing

Chloe Presley-Gundaker, Managing Editor

After walking to her car, due to an overcrowd in the concert she had attended at the Centennial Olympic Park, Chemistry teacher Kay Newsome heard one huge, loud boom, followed by panicking screams of those who surrounded her.

What Newsome had just experienced was the bombing of an event that killed 2 people, and injured 111 others in the summer of 1996. The event was recently depicted in the new film, “Richard Jewell,” making this topic more relevant than ever.

While at her desk in room A203, Newsome described the events that happened that night, and the events that unfolded afterwards.

“I had left right before it happened,” she said. “People were running and screaming all over the place.”

Luckily she was able to get out in time, getting to her home safely. Once the chaos had all calmed down the next day, a new hero emerged.

Richard Jewell was the security guard who not only found the bomb, but also helped people move out of the way when they discovered the bomb would go off. Though when his past history of assault on civilians and impersonating an officer came up, the Federal Bureau of Investigation started to question things.

“Atlanta probably worked ten years for the olympics,” she said. “People wanted to find out who did this and fast.”

Once media got wind of the new suspect, they pounced, making things especially hard for the FBI and Jewell. They started to dive deep into his private life, to the point where privacy was no longer an option for him.

“He could not leave his house,” Newsome said. “[He and his family] were held hostage.”

Though as more information came out, people, along with Newsome started to realize that he wasn’t the one responsible. Once the FBI removed him from the suspect list, things started to die down.

The actual perpetrator, far-right extremist Eric Rudolph was convicted in 2003, after having committed 3 more bombings at a gay night club, and two abortion clinics. He wasn’t suspected until 1998, in spite of him holding extremist viewpoints that correlated to a growing trend in far right violence.

“It made more sense, he kind of fit more of a profile,” she said.

Thus the events of that night could finally come to a close, though what happened left a lasting impact on hundreds.

“I thank God that it has now ended, and that you now know what I have known all along,” Jewell said in an interview after the FBI deemed his innocence.


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