BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Emily Lyons never gave up hope that the man who set off the bomb that left her blind in one eye, unable to work and facing a lifetime of operations, would someday be caught.
Her reaction when a friend called her Saturday to tell her that bombing suspect Eric Robert Rudolph (search) had been arrested in the mountains of North Carolina was a mixture of joy and relief.
"I jumped up and down. I kept saying 'I can't believe it. I can't believe it," Lyons said.
She said she felt immediate relief because "I know he can't hurt anyone else now."
Lyons was critically injured and off-duty police officer Robert "Sande" Sanderson was killed in the Jan. 29, 1998, bombing at the New Woman All Women Health Clinic (search) in Birmingham, the last of a series of bombings linked to Rudolph. Sanderson's family could not be immediately reached Saturday.
Federal charges have also been filed against Rudolph in the 1996 bombing at Atlanta's crowded Olympic Park (search). The explosion injured 111 people and killed Alice Hawthorne, a 44-year-old Georgia woman who brought her teenage daughter to the park.
Alice Hawthorne's widower, John Hawthorne, said he broke down after hearing reports of Rudolph's capture. Now, he says he's preparing psychologically for Rudolph's prosecution in court.
"I'm gearing up for what's to come," he told WALB-TV. "It may seem like a slam dunk but I have found that nothing is ever a slam dunk."
Rudolph was also charged with bombing a gay nightclub in Atlanta and an office building north of Atlanta in 1997.
Beverly McMahon owned the Atlanta nightclub that Rudolph was suspected of bombing six years ago.
"This is the shocker," she said. "I just knew he was out there. I always thought they'd catch him."
The 62-year-old mother of two said she has struggled with paranoia since a bomb rocked The Otherside Lounge, whose clientele is mostly gay and lesbian. The lounge was crowded with about 150 people when the nail-packed device exploded in a rear patio in late February 1997.
"It's always like you have someone on your back," McMahon said. "You're always wandering, 'Why me?'"
Lyons had just arrived for work at the Birmingham women's clinic, the site of many anti-abortion demonstrations, and was apparently talking with Sanderson outside the clinic when the bomb sprayed hundreds of nails and shrapnel into her face and body.
In the past five years, she has had 20 surgeries and there are still nails in her legs. She is blind in her left eye and faces the possibility of eventually losing vision in her right eye.
"This person wanted to kill me. He robbed me of my life and he took away my independence, he took away my career," Lyons said, who will never be able to work again as a nurse.
"You don't have to go to the Middle East to find terrorists. Rudolph is one of them," Lyons said.
Sitting on the couch in her split-level home in the Birmingham suburb of Homewood, Lyons said she is now looking forward to Rudolph being brought to trial, and getting the death penalty.
"Maybe now we will know why he did it," she said. "Maybe he will tell us."