OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahomans and victims’ relatives paused Saturday at the Oklahoma City National Memorial for a simple, poignant ceremony to remember the 168 people killed 13 years ago in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
The attack on April 19, 1995, is the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.
“The evil act perpetrated here illustrated the depths of human depravity,” Gov. Brad Henry said. “But Oklahomans met tragedy with triumph. From such a horrible crime came tales of astounding goodness.”
At 9:02 a.m., the time of the bombing, people attending the service observed 168 seconds. Victims’ names also were read aloud.
Before the ceremony, relatives of the victims placed wreaths and mementos on the memorial’s glass and bronze chairs, each one representing a victim of the bombing.
Deb Hodges, wife of bombing victim Gene Hodges Jr., a Department of Housing and Urban Development worker who was killed on the seventh floor of the building, looked at a picture drawn by their granddaughter that had been placed on his chair.
Time has allowed her to move on, but “it doesn’t get better. It gets different. You adjust. But you never forget,” Hodges said.
Rudy Guzman of Castro Valley, Calif., is the brother of Marine Capt. Randolph A. Guzman, who died on the sixth floor of the building in the U.S. Marine Corps recruiting office.
“Day by day you think of the good things,” he said as he stood by a chair bearing his brother’s name.
Guzman said family members and survivors have developed a sense of family over the years. He said, “It’s a family brought together in tragedy, but we’re here to help each other out.”
One of the participants in a national media symposium held later in the day was ABC anchorman Bob Woodruff, who suffered a traumatic brain injury in January 2006 when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in Iraq.
Woodruff said he teared up when he visited the memorial Saturday for the first time.
“It was about as emotional a moment as I have felt in a long time,” he said.
His wife, Lee Woodruff, said Oklahoma City should be proud of the memorial. “What you’ve created here is rare and probably the most moving place in the country,” she said.
The nine-story federal building was destroyed when a truck packed with 4,800 pounds of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil was detonated near its entrance. Besides the 168 who died – including 19 children – more than 800 were injured.
An Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper caught Timothy McVeigh less than two hours after the bombing. McVeigh was convicted of federal murder charges and was executed on June 11, 2001.
Terry Nichols, who met McVeigh in the Army, was convicted on federal and state charges connected with the bombing and is serving multiple life sentences in federal prison.
During the trials of McVeigh and Nichols, prosecutors called the bombing a twisted attempt to avenge the deaths of about 80 people in the government siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, exactly two years earlier.