The last public reminder of the evil that this city has faced is gone.
In Fourth of July ceremonies, Oklahomans raised their American flags to full-staff Tuesday for the first time since the bombing of the federal building killed 168 people in the nation’s worst terrorist attack.
“Today, we restore our flags to their rightful place - proudly, as free men and women who will never bow to terror,” Gov. Frank Keating told a crowd of several thousand at the state Capitol.
At 9:02 a.m. - to mark the time of the April 19 blast - drums rolled and four jets flew overhead as the 14 flags around the Capitol steps were raised, flapping in the wind.
Spectators held their hands over their hearts and cheered after hearing the national anthem. Some saluted. Others wiped tears from their eyes.
“Our Independence Day is a time for joy and celebration,” Keating said. “This year, our joy is tempered by sorrow and our celebration is muted by the magnitude of our loss. But we do have cause for joy. We do have something to celebrate. Our flag still flies.”
For the last 10 weeks, the city has been fighting a sense of insecurity and instability, dogged by the fear that Middle America is not as safe as people once thought.
On the Fourth of July, many tried to turn that insecurity into patriotism.
“What happened here was a wake-up call for this nation,” said Oklahoma City Mayor Ron Norick. “We were headed down a path of violence, a path that we did not want to see it go.
“Now we’re bringing it back to what we’re all about.”
The message was clear - Oklahoma, with the help of others, has survived and must try to move forward.
“We’ve been mourning for 76 days,” said resident Melvin Warner. “It’s time to go on. This means a lot to the state. We have to try to end it all and get back to some normalcy, if we can have any.”
Still, country singer Vince Gill spoke for many, many who are having a hard time getting over the devastation.
“I, for one, will never forget, and everything is not OK,” he said at the ceremony. “I’ve always been proud - but never prouder than on April 19 - to be a native son of the great state of Oklahoma.”