Oklahoma's longest-serving Congressman led the state's delegation on the House floor in Washington Thursday to reflect on the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing as the 20th anniversary approaches.
U.S. Rep. Frank Lucas was a freshman lawmaker representing Oklahoma's now-defunct Sixth Congressional District that included downtown Oklahoma City.
He recalled attending a Base Realignment and Closure hearing in Dallas when a reporter tapped him in the shoulder at about 9:15.
“And he said, ‘We have a report that there’s been an explosion at the federal building in Oklahoma City. They say the building is gone. Your district office is in one of those federal buildings in downtown Oklahoma City. Which building are your people in?’ A moment that I’ll never forget,” Lucas said.
The Cheyenne Republican’s office was actually located in a different federal building known as the Old Post Office.
Congressman Steve Russell now represents downtown Oklahoma City where the terrorist attack destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building.
He led a moment of silence for the 168 victims of the bombing. Russell was serving in the U.S. Army in 1995, and read the names of six members the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force who were killed while working in the military recruiting stations in the federal building.
“[They were] never imagining that in their recruiting duties in Oklahoma City that they would give their lives in defense of their country,” Russell said.
Russell’s predecessor in the Fifth Congressional District – now-U.S. Sen. James Lankford – said there’s now an entire generation who doesn’t have first-hand memories of the Oklahoma City bombing.
Speaking to MSNBC's Morning Joe Friday morning, Oklahoma's junior Republican Senator said on this anniversary there's a special emphasis on engaging in acts of service, especially with people you disagree with.
“Why can’t we reach out to people we disagree with, engage in those conversations, and try to do acts of service for those individuals, and set a standard for the nation, as we set 20 years ago, in how we’re going to respond to hatred and violence,” Lankford said.
U.S. Rep. Tom Cole echoed Lankford’s sentiments as he discussed bipartisanship Thursday afternoon on the House floor. Cole was in Oklahoma City that day – at the time, he was the Secretary of State in Gov. Frank Keating's administration. Cole praised President Clinton’s leadership role in the immediate aftermath.
“I can’t say I voted for Bill Clinton, but I was very glad he was president of the United States at that moment. Nobody helped us more,” Cole said. “We may have our political differences from time to time as Americans, but in times of tragedy, we stick together, we come together, we pull together, and we work together, and we work to help one another. Certainly, President Clinton did that.”
The 42nd president will be in Oklahoma City to speak at the ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of the attack and recovery.