As she pulled the canvas off a 7-foot bronze sculpture of a boy gazing toward heaven, Jannie Coverdale nodded in satisfaction Saturday at the memorial to the children killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.
“As long as I know people haven’t forgotten our children, it helps,” said Coverdale, whose two grandsons were killed in the April 19 explosion. She wore a pin showing the boys’ smiling faces.
About 200 people joined her at the ceremony outside the Richard Bolling Federal Building, where speakers recalled the blast that killed 169 people, including 19 children and three day-care teachers.
Melva Noakes, who owned the day-care center in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, said the sculpture brought back memories of the children who died when the bomb tore through the building.
“The faces will never leave, all the happy faces they had,” Noakes said as she gazed at the sculpture after the ceremony.
The effort to build the Kansas City sculpture was led by LaRose Lewellen, whose son attends a day-care center at the Bolling building. She said she was inspired by the fear she felt when she picked up her son the day of the bombing.
Residents and businesses helped raise $12,000 for the statue, which also is dedicated to the three daycare workers.
Jim Denny and his wife, Claudia, traveled from Oklahoma City with their two children, both survivors of the blast. Their 4-year-old son, Brandon, is still in a wheelchair after suffering head injuries from debris.
“The more we keep the thought alive,” Jim Denney said of the explosion, “the less chance we will have of this happening again.”
Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols are charged in the bombing, and could face the death penalty if convicted. Both men are in prison without bail.
The sculpture, titled “Flight,” shows a barefoot boy in a leather pilot’s cap. The boy’s right hand is releasing a dove while his other hand gently holds another dove to his chest.
“I hope this memorial will remind us the best tribute we can pay is to stay close to the child within each of us,” said Jim Brothers, a Lawrence sculptor who created the piece.
Brothers said he felt a special connection to the victims of the bombing because he studied in Oklahoma City and got his first job as an illustrator there.
“This is the first time I’ve cried at a dedication,” Brothers said after the ceremony, “but I just couldn’t help it.”