1985: O'Dowd was in his third decade as the Daily News' top police reporter. The yin to his yang was ex-cop Gibbons, who was in the middle of a legendary run as the Inquirer's police reporter. Gibbons had turned to journalism after he was shot in the line of duty while working as a Highway Patrol officer.
When a torrent of gunfire erupted about 6 a.m. on May 13, "it sounded like something out of a movie," O'Dowd recalled. He and Gibbons spent the day dashing around the scene and dodging ricocheting bullets. Sometimes they observed the carnage from an alley at the end of the block; other times, they darted inside a rowhouse on the next block to call in notes to their editors.
"By midafternoon, the police let Joe and I know that something big was going to happen," Gibbons said.
"I thought they'd send a big tank down the street," O'Dowd added. "Then I heard the helicopter."
Both watched in awe as a satchel of explosives was dropped onto the roof of MOVE's headquarters. A small fire soon grew into an uncontrollable beast that consumed the entire neighborhood.
"It turned into a catastrophe," Gibbons said. "The whole block of Osage Avenue was decimated by flames."
City leaders had "plenty of time" to come up with a solid strategy for the showdown with MOVE, O'Dowd said. "They should have had better plans."
Quote: "I asked this one cop, 'What's going to happen?' " O'Dowd said. "He said, 'The only thing I can tell you is, duck at 5:20.' "
2010: O'Dowd, 73, retired from the Daily News in 1999. Now white-haired and reed-thin, he lives in Delaware County and spends a good deal of time taking trips to the Shore with his wife or watching horse races.
Gibbons, 65, left the Inquirer five years ago. He still favors his trademark wardrobe - sharply cut suits and pinstriped shirts. He lives in Northeast Philadelphia, where he says his retirement days seamlessly blend together.
- David Gambacorta