He went from hero to villain to hero again. It’s the story of Richard Jewell over the past ten years. On Tuesday, the State of Georgia honored him for his rescue efforts when a bomb went off in Centennial Olympic Park on July 27, 1996.
Jewell was working as a security guard in the park during the 1996 Olympic Games. Jewell spotted a knapsack under a park bench and notified his superiors. Inside the pack was a bomb that exploded, killing one person and injuring 111 others.
Governor Sonny Perdue said he was setting the historical record straight by honoring Jewell.
"His actions saved lives that day," the Governor said. He said Richard Jewell never sought notoriety; he did his job and was maligned for it.
“He didn't seek this today, we sought him out because I think it’s the right thing to do”, the Governor said. Jewell was given a commendation by the governor.
On the morning of July 27, 1996, Jewell was interviewed by local and network television cameras because he found the bomb.
Jewell told 11Alive News at the time, “We got a 150 to 175 people off that hill before the bomb blew up.”
Despite his efforts, Alice Hawthorne was killed and over a hundred other people were injured.
Ten years later, he comes to tears when he talks about his efforts and what he wishes he could have done.
“I wish there had been fewer people injured. I wish Alice Hawthorne had not lost her life”, Jewell said.
Three days after the explosion, Jewell became the subject of an FBI investigation. The media was tipped off to a search at his Buford Highway apartment where he lived with his mother, Barbara Jewell.
In the ten years since, Jewell counts few positives in his life.
“I got married. I'm still alive. I'm not in prison. I'm not in an electric chair. Those are some positive things”, he said.
Historically, the circle may be complete. But Richard Jewell’s life, and his mother’s life, is another story.
“Ten years of my life is missing to begin with”, Jewell said.
Barbara Jewell added “I could have died in those ten years and never known that this was going to happen.”
She broke into tears and hugged Governor Perdue.
Richard Jewell is 43 years old now. He is a sheriff deputy in rural Meriwether County, about 50-miles from Atlanta.