Victims of Oklahoma City Bombing Honored
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SPENCER MICHELS: Oklahoma City at 9:02 this morning: The exact moment a truck bomb shattered hundreds of lives ten years ago — 168 seconds of silence fell on those gathered inside the Church across from the blast site — one second for each victim killed, each represented by an empty bronze chair at the outdoor memorial.
April 19, 1995, marked the deadliest domestic terror attack on U.S. soil. The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City lay in ruins. A parked rental truck made its delivery: 4,800 pounds of homemade explosives. In addition to the deaths, more than 800 were wounded, and many children were left orphans.
Behind the gruesome attack: Timothy James McVeigh and his conspirator Terry Lynn Nichols, two anti-government zealots who plotted the bombing. McVeigh was convicted on federal conspiracy and murder charges and was executed in Terre Haute, Indiana, on June 11, 2001. Terry Nichols, who avoided the death penalty because of a split jury, is now serving multiple life sentences on both federal and state charges.
The Oklahoma City National Memorial, dedicated five years ago, includes the gates of time, representing the moment of innocence before the blast and its loss; 19 of the empty chairs are smaller than the rest, as a reminder of the children who perished. Some of the children who survived the blast were on hand today to read the memorial mission statement.
CHILDREN: May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope, and serenity.
SPENCER MICHELS: Ernestine Clark, a downtown worker, read her tribute.
ERENESTINE CLARK: For the beauty of this Oklahoma day, whether calm or windy, cool or warm, clear or cloudy, noisy or strangely quiet, we feel gratitude. For the memories of those deeply soul searing events of April 19, 1995, we acknowledge again those we shall never forget. We express gratitude that we have connected as families, survivors, rescuers and community, to provide each other hope.
SPENCER MICHELS: Vice President Cheney was also there.
VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: This nation is decent and just, fair-minded and good-hearted. When sadness comes, when fellow citizens know suffering and loss, we do not want to forget what happened or to whom it happened.
We uphold the value of innocent life by pursuing justice until justice is done. We find comfort in the knowledge that our created universe has a moral design and the forces of darkness will not have the final say.
SPENCER MICHELS: Spreading its branches over the memorial is a lone American elm tree, known as the Survivor Tree. It withstood the blast and now is thriving. President Clinton in his remarks today talked about that tree.
FORMER PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON: Boy, that tree was ugly when I first saw it, but survive it did. Trees are good symbols for what you did. You can’t forget the past of a tree; it’s in the roots. And if you lose the roots, you lose the tree. But the nature of the tree is to always reach for tomorrow — it’s in the branches — and to always find regenerative power from season to season.
We owe it to the 168 people who perished, to their family members, to all who lost here, never to forget them, never to stop mourning, never to stop missing, but to be like a tree: To keep our roots and to reach for tomorrow.
SPENCER MICHELS: Then there was a reading of the names of all the victims by some of their children.
YOUNG GIRL READING: David Neal Burkett, my step-dad, Peter R. Villanosa, Ted Allen –
YOUNG MAN: We remember the friends and family credit union, third floor, Trisha Joe Mathis Wharton, Virginia M. Thompson.
YOUNG MAN: Derwin W. Miller, Cartney J. McCraven, my dad, Rev. Gilbert X. Martinez.
YOUNG WOMAN: — Argo, Richard A. Allen. And Teresa Antoinette Alexander.
SPENCER MICHELS: And at the end, families and loved ones quietly made their way outside the church to the memorial.