Monday, April 19, 2010

Oklahoma City marks 15 years since bombing

Bill Clinton's speech following the Oklahoma City Bombing, 1995:

Remarks during "A Time of Healing" Prayer Service at the Oklahoma State Fair Arena in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
Thank you very much. Governor Keating and Mrs. Keating, Reverend Graham, to the families of those who have been lost and wounded, to the people of Oklahoma City, who have endured so much, and the people of this wonderful state, to all of you who are here as our fellow Americans.
I am honored to be here today to represent the American people. But I have to tell you that Hillary and I also come as parents, as husband and wife, as people who were your neighbors for some of the best years of our lives.
Today our nation joins with you in grief. We mourn with you. We share your hope against hope that some may still survive. We thank all those who have worked so heroically to save lives and to solve this crime -- those here in Oklahoma and those who are all across this great land, and many who left their own lives to come here to work hand in hand with you.
We pledge to do all we can to help you heal the injured, to rebuild this city, and to bring to justice those who did this evil.
This terrible sin took the lives of our American family, innocent children in that building, only because their parents were trying to be good parents as well as good workers; citizens in the building going about their daily business; and many there who served the rest of us -- who worked to help the elderly and the disabled, who worked to support our farmers and our veterans, who worked to enforce our laws and to protect us. Let us say clearly, they served us well, and we are grateful.
But for so many of you they were also neighbors and friends. You saw them at church or the PTA meetings, at the civic clubs, at the ball park. You know them in ways that all the rest of America could not.
And to all the members of the families here present who have suffered loss, though we share your grief, your pain is unimaginable, and we know that. We cannot undo it. That is God's work.
Our words seem small beside the loss you have endured. But I found a few I wanted to share today. I've received a lot of letters in these last terrible days. One stood out because it came from a young widow and a mother of three whose own husband was murdered with over 200 other Americans when Pan Am 103 was shot down. Here is what that woman said I should say to you today:
The anger you feel is valid, but you must not allow yourselves to be consumed by it. The hurt you feel must not be allowed to turn into hate, but instead into the search for justice. The loss you feel must not paralyze your own lives. Instead, you must try to pay tribute to your loved ones by continuing to do all the things they left undone, thus ensuring they did not die in vain.
Wise words from one who also knows.
You have lost too much, but you have not lost everything. And you have certainly not lost America, for we will stand with you for as many tomorrows as it takes.
If ever we needed evidence of that, I could only recall the words of Governor and Mrs. Keating. If anybody thinks that Americans are mostly mean and selfish, they ought to come to Oklahoma. If anybody thinks Americans have lost the capacity for love and caring and courage, they ought to come to Oklahoma.
To all my fellow Americans beyond this hall, I say, one thing we owe those who have sacrificed is the duty to purge ourselves of the dark forces which gave rise to this evil. They are forces that threaten our common peace, our freedom, our way of life.
Let us teach our children that the God of comfort is also the God of righteousness. Those who trouble their own house will inherit the wind. Justice will prevail.
Let us let our own children know that we will stand against the forces of fear. When there is talk of hatred, let us stand up and talk against it. When there is talk of violence, let us stand up and talk against it. In the face of death, let us honor life. As St. Paul admonished us, let us not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Yesterday Hillary and I had the privilege of speaking with some children of other federal employees --children like those who were lost here. And one little girl said something we will never forget. She said, we should all plant a tree in memory of the children. So this morning before we got on the plane to come here, at the White House, we planted tree in honor of the children of Oklahoma.
It was a dogwood with its wonderful spring flower and its deep, enduring roots. It embodies the lesson of the Psalms -- that the life of a good person is like a tree whose leaf does not wither.
My fellow Americans, a tree takes a long time to grow, and wounds take a long time to heal. But we must begin. Those who are lost now belong to God. Some day we will be with them. But until that happens, their legacy must be our lives.
Thank you all, and God bless you.
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Oklahoma City marks 15 years since bombing
OKLAHOMA CITY -U.S. Homeland Security
Secretary Janet Napolitano told survivors
and victims’ relatives gathered Monday
for a somber ceremony to mark the
15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City
bombing that the city’s spirit in the wake of
the tragedy served as an example to the nation.
Napolitano also warned of the need for
continued vigilance against terrorists when
she spoke during the 90-minute memorial
to the 168 lives lost in the destruction of the
Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April
19, 1995. More than 600 others were injured
in the blast, which at the time was the
deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
Across Oklahoma City, people observed
168 seconds of silence to honor the dead.
Some dabbed away tears as the ceremony
closed with family members reading a roll
call of those who died.
“What defines us as a nation, as a people
and as communities is not what we have
suffered, but how we have risen above it,
how we’ve overcome,” Napolitano said.
“We can resolve that the Oklahoma Standard
becomes the national standard,” she
said of the willingness of Oklahomans to
help those in need without compensation.
The ceremony followed a time-honored
script. Shortly before 9:02 a.m. — when the
bombing occurred — bells tolled in downtown
Oklahoma City. Some family members
visited the site of the federal building
razed in the attack and left ribbons,
wreaths and other objects on chairs that
stand on the site to honor the dead.
Vickie Lykins and her sister, Angela
Richerson, placed a rose, an American flag
and a purple ribbon on the chair honoring
their mother, Norma “Jean” Johnson, who
had been a Defense Security Service worker.
“This is our mother’s favorite color,”
Lykins said as she secured the ribbon.
“Time heals nothing,” said Debi Burkett
Moore, who placed a floral display on the
seat and back of the chair honoring her
brother, David Burkett, a U.S. Department
of Housing and Urban Development. She
said the ceremony “makes it a little more
bearable, but it heals nothing.”
Kathryn Burkett, David Burkett’s mother,
said she is saddened more by her son’s
death with each passing year.
“Why it is sadder, I don’t know why,”
Burkett said. “You just live with it.”
After the ceremony, family members and
survivors gathered again at the building’s
footprint. Nearby an American Elm, known
as the “Survivor Tree” because it survived
the blast, bloomed a brilliant shade of
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said
the city remembered the day of the bombing
with reverence, “not because we can’t
forget but because we choose to remember.
“We have chosen strength, we have chosen
optimism, we have chosen freedom, we
have chosen to move forward together with
a level of unity that is unmatched in any
American city,” Cornett said at the ceremony,
held on a cool, overcast morning.
Gov. Brad Henry said legislation he
signed earlier this month would ensure that
students learn about the bombing and its
aftermath in history classes.
“We have a duty to assure that future
generations remember those lost and injured
here, that they understand the
lessons of this vital part of our shared history,”
he said.
Charlie Hangar — the Oklahoma Highway
Patrol trooper who stopped bomber
Timothy McVeigh on Interstate 35 the day
of the blast because his 1977 Mercury Marquis
did not have a license plate — read the
memorial’s mission statement at the start
of the service. Hangar is now the Noble
County sheriff.
Napolitano said the bombing anniversary
was a reminder of “the continued need
for vigilance against the violent ideologies
that led to this attack, so that we can recognize
their signs in our communities and
stand together to defeat them.”
“We cannot put a glass dome over our
country. We cannot guarantee there will
not be another attack. No one can,” Napolitano
said. “But we are a strong and resilient
country. And we can resolve that even a
successful attack will not defeat our way of
In a documentary, “The McVeigh Tapes:
Confessions of an American Terrorist,” to
be aired Monday on MSNBC, recordings of
interviews with the convicted bomber indicate
he had no remorse for those whose
lives he had destroyed.
“Throughout the history of mankind,
people have killed for what they believed
was the greater good and ... and it’s accepted.
Sometimes killing is accepted,”
McVeigh told journalists Lou Michel and
Dan Herbeck in comments posted on the
MSNBC Web site.
Prosecutors had said McVeigh’s plot was
an 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.
McVeigh was convicted on federal murder
charges and executed in 2001.
McVeigh’s Army buddy, Terry Nichols, was
convicted on federal and state bombing-related
charges and is serving multiple life
sentences at a federal prison in Colorado.

Learning the Lessons of the Oklahoma City
Bombing 15 Years Later
Andrew Cohen
Fifteen years after the Oklahoma City
bombing that claimed 168 lives, the
memory seemed so distant even in the
state where it happened that Oklahoma
officials earlier this month passed a law
requiring the state’s board of education to
develop and teach courses about the
death and destruction that occurred at the
Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building at
precisely 9:02 a.m. on Wednesday, April
19, 1995.
Discussing the new measure at the
Oklahoma City National Memorial, Gov.
Brad Henry found it difficult to explain why
the state had to mandate the teaching of
a topic of such obvious local and national
“Although the events of April 19, 1995,
are indelibly etched in the minds of so
many Oklahomans, most of today’s
school children were not even born when
that day dramatically changed our
history,” Henry said. “It is essential for
them and the generations of students that
follow to learn the significance of this
horrific event..”
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The new law — House Bill 2750 — says
as much about the bombing’s
disappearance from our national narrative
as it does about the impoverished state of
public education in the Sooner state. Not
only has the emotion and attention
surrounding bomber Timothy McVeigh’s
cowardly assault on “the government”
receded with time, as all historic events
naturally do, it’s been overshadowed by
the much larger and much more complex
attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. McVeigh was
once on the cover of Time magazine as
the face of terror. Now and forever more
to hundreds of millions of Americans that
face belongs to Osama bin Laden and his
fellow travelers.
At the time, however, the Oklahoma City
bombing was the largest and deadliest
crime in American history. Former
soldiers McVeigh and Terry Nichols, and
maybe (or maybe not) others unknown,
murdered 168 men, women and children
and wounded hundreds more. The
colossal flash of homemade explosives
ended that generation’s burgeoning antigovernment
movement — a movement
reflected in such incidents as the standoff
in remote Ruby Ridge, Idaho, with a
separatist family and the FBI’s siege of
the Branch Davidian compound in Waco,
Texas. To this day, the explosion that
ripped the heart out of a “heartland” city
remains the worst domestic crime ever
committed by Americans and is otherwise
surpassed in scope only by 9/11.
About 17 times as many people were
murdered on 9/11 as were murdered on
April 19, 1995, in Oklahoma City. There
were more people (255) who died on 9/11
whose last names began with the letter
“S” than who died at the Murrah Building.
But, as I wrote about on the first
anniversary of 9/11, it isn’t just the orders
of magnitude involved between the two
dreadful days that explains why the latter
has superseded the former for most
Americans. It isn’t just that one was
broadcast live on national television while
the other one came to us in the 24/7 news
world of the Internet age. It isn’t just that
one occurred at the cores of power and
population while the other occurred in that
vast expanse of country between both
Compared with the rippling (and in many
ways crippling) effects wrought by 9/11,
the Oklahoma City bombing was a tidy
affair from start to finish. It was the sort of
storyline with which most Americans are
familiar. There’s the evil plot, the warped
reality of the planners, the attack upon
innocents, the heroic work by rescue
workers and law enforcement officials, the
lucky break and, ultimately, justice.
Although many of the same elements
exist, there has been no such straight
narrative in the wake of the terror attacks
on the Pentagon and World Trade Center.
It’s still clearly an “ongoing event,” as
intelligence officials like to say, both in
terms of future terror attacks and the fate
of the terrorists we have in hand.
The legal and political and financial twists
and turns stemming from the 9/11 attacks
continue nearly a decade later. Debates
even persisted on what should be built at
Ground Zero. But less than three years
after McVeigh lit the fuse and walked
away from his rented Ryder truck, both he
and Nichols had been captured, charged,
tried and convicted. McVeigh’s life story
lasted just a few years more. On June 11,
2001, exactly three months before the
Twin Towers fell to dust, McVeigh was
executed on a hot, muggy morning in
Terre Haute, Indiana. Nichols, meanwhile,
has spent the past 12 years since his
conviction mostly in silence and solitary
confinement at the “Supermax” federal
penitentiary near Florence, Colorado.
Their awful story had a startling
beginning, an instructive middle, and a
comfortable end — just like all those
made-for-television movies.
No such script yet exists for the 9/11
crime. The hijackers all died instantly —
they never received their due justice in
this realm. Nearly nine years after the
attacks, Bin Laden is still free. Khalid
Sheikh Mohammed, who already has
confessed to the crime, remains un-tried,
un-convicted and un-sentenced. So does
Ramzi Binalshibh, another key 9/11
plotter. The only person convicted of a
serious 9/11-related crime was the
buffoon Zacarias Moussaoui (who
pleaded guilty and tried to convince his
jury to have him executed). The 9/11
story sure had its gut-busting, heartbreaking
beginning but a decade later
there is no end in sight. We’re just stuck
in the middle, fighting still over tribunal
They probably don’t teach irony in
Oklahoma’s public schools. But the great
irony of the timing of Oklahoma’s new
education initiative is that while the import
of April 19, 1995, has faded for many, the
stark political and economic and racial
and cultural dynamics that fueled its
tragedy are ascendant again. Indeed, the
enduring strain of American anger toward
government, which led McVeigh to his
deadly act of violence, April 19, 1995,
persists. We saw it in last summer’s
rhetoric over health care, in the language
used to describe the president of the
United States, and in the signs painted for
and proudly produced at “Tea Party”
We see it all over cable news and hear it
on the radio. Go back to the language
and tone of 1993 and 1994 and listen to
the echoes we hear today. It’s very real.
And it’s really scary. Which means that,
despite the new legislation, there are only
two vital questions that Oklahoma’s
teachers must help answer for their
students in the years to come: What
lessons did America truly learn from the
tragedy that befell it on April 19, 1995?
And what lessons has it forgotten or
merely chosen to ignore?

The Oklahoma City bombing was a bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Timothy McVeigh detonated an explosive-filled truck that he had parked in front of the Federal Building. McVeigh's co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, had assisted in the bomb preparation. It was the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil until the September 11, 2001 attacks, and the most destructive act of domestic terrorism in American history.

The Oklahoma blast claimed 168 lives, including 19 children under the age of 6, and more than 680 people were injured. The blast destroyed or damaged 324 buildings within a sixteen-block radius, destroyed or burned 86 cars, and shattered building glass in a three mile square area. The bomb was estimated to have caused at least $652 million worth of property damage.

Extensive rescue efforts were undertaken by local, state, federal, and worldwide agencies in the wake of the bombing, and substantial donations were received from across the country. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) activated eleven of its Urban Search and Rescue Task Forces, consisting of 665 rescue workers who assisted in rescue and recovery operations.

Motivated by his hatred of the federal government and angered by what he perceived as its mishandling of the Waco Siege (1993) and the Ruby Ridge incident (1992), McVeigh timed his attack to coincide with the second anniversary of the deaths at Waco. Within 90 minutes of the explosion, McVeigh was stopped by Oklahoma State Trooper Charlie Hanger for driving without a license plate and was arrested for unlawfully carrying a weapon.

Forensic evidence quickly linked McVeigh and Nichols to the attack; Nichols was arrested, and within days both were charged. Michael and Lori Fortier were later identified as accomplices. The official investigation, known as "OKBOMB", was the largest criminal investigation case in American history; FBI agents conducted 28,000 interviews, amassing 3.5 short tons (3.2 t) of evidence, and collected nearly one billion pieces of information.

The bombers were tried and convicted in 1997. McVeigh was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001, and Nichols was sentenced to life in prison. Michael and Lori Fortier testified against McVeigh and Nichols; Michael was sentenced to twelve years in prison for failing to warn the U.S. government, and Lori received immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony. As with other large-scale terrorist attacks, conspiracy theories dispute the official claims and allege the involvement of additional perpetrators.

As a result of the bombing, the U.S. government passed legislation designed to increase the protection around federal buildings to deter future terrorist attacks. From 1995 to 2005, over 60 domestic terrorism plots were foiled due to preventive measures taken in response to the bombing. On April 19, 2000, the Oklahoma City National Memorial was dedicated on the site of the Murrah Federal Building, commemorating the victims of the bombing. Annual remembrance services are held at the same time of day as the original explosion occurred.

President Bill Clinton in 1995:

At 9:45 a.m. CST, Governor Frank Keating declared a state of emergency and ordered all non-essential workers in the Oklahoma City area to be released from their duties for their safety. President Bill Clinton learned about the bombing around 9:30 a.m. CST while he was meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Çiller at the White House.

Prior to addressing the nation, President Clinton wanted to ground all planes in the Oklahoma City area to prevent the bombers from escaping by air, but decided against it.

At 4:00 p.m. CST, President Clinton declared a federal emergency in Oklahoma City and spoke to the nation:
The bombing in Oklahoma City was an attack on innocent children and defenseless citizens. It was an act of cowardice and it was evil. The United States will not tolerate it, and I will not allow the people of this country to be intimidated by evil cowards.
He ordered that flags for all federal buildings be flown at half-staff for 30 days in remembrance of the victims. Four days later, on April 23, 1995, Clinton spoke from Oklahoma City.

No major federal financial assistance was made available to the survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing, but the Murrah Fund set up in the wake of the bombing succeeded in attracting over $300,000 in federal grants. Over $40 million was donated to the city to aid disaster relief and to compensate the victims. Funds were initially distributed to families who needed it to get back on their feet, and the rest was held in trust for longer-term medical and psychological needs. As of 2005, $18 million of the donations remained, some of which was earmarked to provide a college education for each of the 219 children who lost one or both parents in the bombing. A committee chaired by Daniel Kurtenbach of Goodwill Industries provided financial assistance to the survivors.

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