As backhoes and demolition crews dug toward the bodies still entombed in the demolished federal building Wednesday, a scarred Marine returned to claim a piece of the place where he almost died.
“I just want to get a chunk of the building, for remembrance more than anything - a chunk of granite,” Gunnery Sgt. Paul Cooper explained through the fence around the rubble.
A worker fetched three chunks of granite, and Cooper said he would have one engraved with the date of the blast that left him six stories up, 2 feet from the building’sragged edge. His wounds required 200 stitches.
The other granite fragments he’ll offer to friends who survived the April 19 blast - if they want them, Cooper said. “Some people want to remember. Some people want to forget.”
One day after the shell of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was demolished with explosives, crews used concrete pulverizers to break up remaining columns and other large pieces. They hoped to reach an area called “the pit” - where the last human remains may lie - by Monday or Tuesday.
The area had been deemed too unstable to search while the building was still standing. It was marked with paint to help crews find the bodies once the building was brought down.
The bodies of Christy Rosas, 22, and Virginia Thompson, 56, both credit union employees, remain entombed. Police believe 54-year-old Alvin Justes, who frequented the credit union, may also be there.
The death toll will be 168 if Justes is confirmed dead.
Many in Oklahoma City want to see a memorial created at the site. The General Services Administration has not made a decision, but it is unlikely a new building will be erected there, GSA administrator Roger Johnson said.
Meanwhile, The Washington Post quoted unidentified sources as saying Michael Fortier, a friend of bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh, has further implicated McVeigh and suspect Terry Nichols under questioning.
Fortier said he declined McVeigh’s request to help with the bombing, the sources said.