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KGOU and our Oklahoma Public Media Exchange partners' coverage of the Oklahoma City bombing at the 20th anniversary and beyond.

State, Nation Pause To Remember 168 Victims Killed In The Oklahoma City Bombing

Updated 10:31 a.m.: Ceremony concludes as dignitaries, survivors reflect

As rain started to fall on the Oklahoma City National Memorial Sunday morning, former President Bill Clinton delivered powerful remarks that drew a standing ovation from the thousands who gathered to mark the 20th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.

"For a whole country, you burned away all the petty squabbles in which we engage, leaving only our basic humanity. I mostly came here to thank you today," Clinton said.

Sunday marked the 42nd president's sixth time to visit the site of the memorial. He recalled the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, saying when the Twin Towers collapsed, Oklahomans were among the first to show up and assist.

"For 20 years, you have honored the memories of your loved ones," Clinton said. "You have inspired us with the power of your renewal. You have reminded us that we should all live by the Oklahoma Standard."

Two top-level officials from Washington also made the trip to Oklahoma City to represent the nation's national security interests.

FBI Director James Comey said the Murrah bombing inspires the bureau to do all it can to root out evil, so Americans never again have to experience what Oklahoma City went through.

"That is our standard," Comey said.

Comey said Oklahoma City residents ran toward darkness, pain, anger, and destruction, because the victims were friends, neighbors, and because that is what Oklahomans do for their families.

"You understood even in the midst of evil, that courage is stronger than fear," Comey said. "Love is stronger than hatred, and hope is stronger than grief."

U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson said the best homeland security is the character of a community.

"Terrorism in any form cannot prevail if the people refuse to be terrorized," Johnson said.

The crowd gathered along the north end of the Oklahoma City National Memorial, who gave out roughly 4,000 tickets for Sunday's ceremony.
Credit Kate Carlton Greer / KGOU
The crowd gathered along the north end of the Oklahoma City National Memorial, who gave out roughly 4,000 tickets for Sunday's ceremony.

Shortly before the federal officials stepped to the lecturn, Gov. Mary Fallin spoke about a new state standard that emerged after April 19, 1995.

"The goodness that we saw that morning, and in the decades to come 20 years later, is truly a mark of grace, of comfort, of love, and compassion," Fallin said.

Current Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett evoked the words of Winston Churchill 75 years ago this June during World War II, between the fall of France and the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union. The late prime minister referred to the constant bombardment of London by the German Luftwaffe as "their darkest hour."

Cornett said Oklahoma City's "darkest hour" came between 9 and 10 a.m. two decades ago.

"It was 60 minutes of terror, but our finest hour has now lasted 20 years," Cornett said. "We have moved beyond. This city has progress in matters I don't think any of us in 1995 could've forseen."

Former Gov. Frank Keating echoed Cornett's sentiments as he offered words of gratitude to the state he led from 1995 through 2003. He and then-Lieutenant Gov. Fallin had only been in office 100 days on the morning of the attack.

"Oklahoma City has become a renaissance community. The state of Oklahoma has become a renaissance state," Keating said. "Much of that is a result of the goodness, the kindness, the sharing, the caring, the Oklahoma Standard that was established here during those agonizing weeks."

Former Mayor Ron Norick led Oklahoma City on the morning of April 19, 1995 when he and Keating were at a prayer breakfast at the time of the blast. He said while the term "Oklahoma Standard" was coined in the days after the attack, the state has always had that service and compassion in its DNA.

"To the families, I will never forget. I will always love you. I will always respect, and my heart will be bleeding for you all the time," Norick said.

As the ceremony started, the 145th Army Band from the Oklahoma National Guard performed, before the Drug Enforcement Agency's Steve Casey and Mike Galu led a bagpipe processional.

Under a sunlit sky with just a few clouds overhead, bombing survivor Richard Williams and his grandchildren Kinsey and Carson Williams read the Memorial's mission statement, and led 168 seconds of silence to honor the individual victims.

The Rev. Mark McAdow from First Church delviered the invocation before the Oklahoma City Police and Fire honor guard posted the colors. Contemporary Christian singer Michael W. Smith led the national anthem, and honored the victims with a worship medley of "How Great Thou Art" and "Friends." The performance came precisely at 9:02 - 20 years to the minute after the detonation.

Archbishop Paul Coakley from the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City offered the 20th anniversary blessing, praying that the city would continue to be a beacon of hope, healing, and reconciliation for all people.

"We pray that the Oklahoma Standard and our faith and care for one another will keep us Oklahoma Strong," Coakley said.

Family members of victims, survivors and first responders poured onto the memorial lawn at the conclusion of the reading of all 168 victims' names.

Three year old Zachary Taylor Chavez died in the America’s Kids Child Development Center. Zachary’s family wore Lion King-inspired t-shirts to the commemoration, and carried a stuffed Lion King toy to remember the boy. His uncle Victor Chavez says there are times when their loss still hits hard.

"There's not a moment that goes by that I don't think of him. It's still just like it happened... it's still fresh," he said. "It's not anything you ever really forget. There's always a hole that will be in your heart that will never be filled unfortunately."

Zachary’s aunt, Cathy Dutton, remembers taking him daycare, feeding him, running Zachary to the doctor, and spoiling the three year old.

"I don't come down here very often because it's still very painful," she said. "It's been 20 years, but when this moment happens, all that pain and all those feelings you tuck away throughout the year just come flooding back in that moment. You're very overwhelmed. You have all these emotions. 

"It does get a little easier to kind of put it back in a box until this day comes, but it's still very raw, very emotional."

Leroy Booker’s mother, Cassandra, worked the Social Security Administration office on the first floor. She died in the bombing when Leroy was only two years old.

“I was told she was a wonderful person. She liked to help a lot. I wish I could get to remember her and other things about her, but unfortunately I didn’t,” he said.

Angela Michelle Talamantes lost her father, Gilbert X. Martinez, in the bombing. Her father was a pastor who was in the building to help a church member get his Social Security number.

“He always carried a smile. He was the type of man who would always help. He would help the community. He would his church members and family members. He was just that type of person. Always trying to give back,” she said.

Original Post

Survivors, family members, and first responders are gathering in downtown Oklahoma City Sunday morning to mark the 20th anniversary of the April 19, 1995 terrorist bombing that killed 168 people and injured hundreds more.

Many are wearing t-shirts with victims' names on them, and carrying flowers to lay on the chairs honoring each victim of the attack. The Field of Empty Chairs sits on the footprint of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

It's a beautiful spring morning in downtown, with what was described as a gorgeous sunrise over the memorial.

The annual ceremony takes place at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, which sits on the former site of the Murrah building. Two decades ago Timothy McVeigh detonated a truck bomb with more than 7,000 pounds of explosives in the worst act of domestic terrorism ever committed on American soil.

McVeigh was convicted and sentenced to die in 1997 and executed in 2001. His accomplice Terry Nichols is serving a life sentence with no possibility for parole at the federal Supermax facility in Florence, Colo.

Former President Bill Clinton will deliver an address, along with several other local and statewide officials during a remembrance ceremony that will take place around the time the bombing took place.

FBI Director James Comey and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson will speak, along with Gov. Mary Fallin, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett. Former Mayor Ron Norick and former Gov. Frank Keating, who led the city and the state in 1995, will also speak. The ceremony will include 168 seconds of silence.

Later in the morning Secretary Johnson will dedicate the Oklahoma City University law school's new Judge Alfred P. Murrah Center for Homeland Security Law and Policy.


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Brian Hardzinski is from Flower Mound, Texas and a graduate of the University of Oklahoma. He began his career at KGOU as a student intern, joining KGOU full time in 2009 as Operations and Public Service Announcement Director. He began regularly hosting Morning Edition in 2014, and became the station's first Digital News Editor in 2015-16. Brian’s work at KGOU has been honored by Public Radio News Directors Incorporated (PRNDI), the Oklahoma Association of Broadcasters, the Oklahoma Associated Press Broadcasters, and local and regional chapters of the Society of Professional Journalists. Brian enjoys competing in triathlons, distance running, playing tennis, and entertaining his rambunctious Boston Terrier, Bucky.
Jacob McCleland spent nine years as a reporter and host at public radio station KRCU in Cape Girardeau, Mo. His stories have appeared on NPR’s Morning Edition and All Things Considered, Here & Now, Harvest Public Media and PRI’s The World. Jacob has reported on floods, disappearing languages, crop duster pilots, anvil shooters, Manuel Noriega, mule jumps and more.
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