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BOMB VICTIMS HONORED : HEALING FROM THE TERROR.

Byline: Patrick Casey Associated Press

They came with bouquets and their memories Saturday to honor those killed and injured in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building two years ago.

The murmur of babies, the gentle sobs of adults and the wail of a fire truck in the distance punctuated the silence at 9:02 a.m. as some 1,500 people bowed their heads for 168 seconds - one second for each of the people killed in the April 19, 1995, bombing.

Relatives clutched flowers, teddy bears and tiny seedlings from the survivors' tree - a slippery elm scarred in the blast.

The tree became a symbol for the spirit of survival and is incorporated in each of the final five bombing memorial designs selected Saturday.

``It was less than 50 yards from ground zero. It's the closest sign of life near the blast,'' said urban forester Mark Bays of the Oklahoma Agriculture Department's forestry division. ``It's survived a heck of a lot. It truly is a survivor tree.''

The department collected seeds from the tree last year to produce the first generation of seedlings from it since the bombing.

``I will go home, and I will plant this, and I will always remember,'' said Cathy McCaskell, whose sister, Terry Rees, was killed in the bombing.

``Healing is a process; it's not a destination,'' Gov. Frank Keating said.

``Two years ago, this was a place of terror and sorrow and stark ugliness - but only for a brief moment,'' he said. ``As the first brave rescuer stepped into that building, as the mighty forces of compassion and support mobilized all of our people, as our loved ones came home to us, we all felt the power of God's love.

``The terror fled, the sorrow was tempered by that love and the ugliness was replaced by this beautiful fence.''

The fence will one day be replaced with a permanent memorial. Five finalists for the design competition were announced at the conclusion of the service.

Aren Almon Kok, whose baby Baylee in a firefighter's arms symbolized the bombing to many people who saw The Associated Press' Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of that tableau, said the memorial service ``makes you remember the people who were lost.''

Kok, who got married two weeks ago, said attending the ceremony was emotionally difficult but not as hard as the day before.

``I celebrated Baylee's birthday yesterday, so yesterday was probably a harder day for me than today,'' she said. The baby would have been 3.

Jon Hansen, the Oklahoma City assistant fire chief who kept the public abreast of rescue efforts after the bombing, said ``it's refreshing to see the people come out.''

``The site is still a very humbling experience, yet I think there is still a spirit amongst everyone of how the city came through this, and that is such a tribute to everyone who was killed or injured here,'' Hansen said.

He said Oklahoma City has not recovered from the bombing but is well on the way.

``I am proud of how everybody pulled together and kind of bonded in this,'' he said. ``That sends a signal to the terrorists and those kind of people that perpetrate these crimes that they may wound us, but they will never defeat us.''

An hour after the Oklahoma City memorial, bells rang out for a similar observance in Denver, where Timothy McVeigh is standing trial for the bombing.

McVeigh, 28, a former Army soldier, is accused of parking a rental truck packed with explosives in front of the building in retaliation for the federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, two years earlier.

CAPTION(S):

2 Photos

Photo: (1) Relatives of people killed in the Oklahoma City bombing place memorials on the site Saturday, the second anniversary of the blast.

(2) About 1,500 people gathered Saturday in Oklahoma City to mark the second anniversary of a bomb blast that killed 168 people, with a 168-second moment of silence at the site of the disaster.

Associated Press
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

 
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Apr 20, 1997
Words:673
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