Senator James Lankford provided a sampling of the resolve Oklahomans have had since the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
“When we come together to pray and remember, we both honor them as we continue to move forward. And we declare with one voice again that evil does not win.”
Wednesday was the 22nd anniversary remembrance ceremony for the 168 people who died April 19, 1995, in the deadliest act of domestic terrorism to date.
The remembrance to those who died in the truck bomb attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City was held in front of permanent memorial chairs set up in an open space where the building once stood. They represent those who died in the building.
The area around the site has now become a memorial including an interactive museum.
Governor Fallin, who was in her first year as Lieutenant governor when the bombing occurred, recalled the shock of the attack.
“We had no idea how much we would need to lean into our faith – how much would be stolen from us,” said Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin to a crowd just as big as in the many years past.
Special guest Dr. Ben Carson, now the national Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, referred to the bombing as “this great crime.”
He said that it was carried out “not only on Oklahoma City, but on America.”
After the names of all 168 were read, in many cases by relatives, Free Press visited with some who were mingling in the crowd visiting the memorial chairs on the site.
Governor Fallin has been a regular on the program for most of the years following the bombing.
In her first year as lieutenant governor she and then Governor Frank Keating had their hands full coordinating federal assistance for local emergency workers at the site.
“Except for a few years when I was in Congress, I’ve been to every one of these,” Fallin said.
She said the meaning of the site and the service “is that we never forget what happened here.”
“And we still see that hope and love and compassion and generosity that has made Oklahoma such a great place to live, work and raise a family,” Fallin said.
Tara Williams had just read the names of some of those children who died in the day care center including that of her brother, Dominique Ravae (Johnson) – London.
During the service her voice had trembled as she read her brother’s name, but afterward she was composed.
“I turned one [year old] three days after the bombing,” Williams said. “So I don’t really remember my brother.”
But what she does remember are the years of growing up seeing her family struggle with her brother’s death.
“I think that it was hardest for my mom, my grandmother and my aunt, because those were the significant people in his life,” Williams said.
Peggy and Jesse Smith lost their daughter Shelly D. Bland in the bombing.
They said that their daughter had only been married 10 months when she died. Her photo on the Oklahoma City National Memorial website shows her in her wedding gown.
Janet Battle said that her parents were both killed as they were arriving for an appointment in the Social Security office. Neither of them worked in the building. She was about 30 at the time of their deaths.
She said the yearly services have given her and other victims’ family members a way to move forward.
“It’s brought everyone together,” Battles said. “It gives us a chance to heal – to see people who we’ve seen over the years and how they’ve moved on.”
A truck bomb parked only a few yards away from the main entrance to the Murrah building facing NW 5th near Robinson exploded just after 9 a.m. April 19, 1995.
The bomb did the most damage to the 10-story federal building, but also killed bystanders and workers in the Athenian and the Water Resources Board Buildings across the street.
The Journal Record building across a parking lot received a large portion of the blast seriously injuring over 100 workers who had windows looking out onto the street where the bomb went off.
The numbers provided by the Oklahoma City National Memorial website are tragic.
Of the 168 total killed, 19 were children who were in the child care center housed in the Murrah building, and 30 other children were orphaned.
Another 219 children lost at least one parent.
One rescuer was killed and 85 other rescuers suffered injuries in the process.
About 850 people were injured by the blast that caused structural damages and blew out windows in a wide radius throughout that part of the city.
Officials estimate that about one-third of the population of Oklahoma City at the time knew someone who had been killed or injured in the attack.
Federal prosecutors successfully convinced a federal jury that Right-wing extremist Timothy McVeigh was the mastermind of the plot. In 1997, McVeigh was convicted on 11 counts in connection with the bombing.
McVeigh seemed to be oblivious to the level of damage the bombing did in people’s lives.
He once referred to the children killed as “collateral damage,” a term used in the military for unintentional damage caused by combat.
McVeigh was executed by lethal injection June 11, 2001.
His co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, received a federal life sentence for his involvement.
Later, Nichols was tried on Oklahoma state charges and convicted of 161 counts of first-degree murder including fetal homicide. He received a 161 year sentence for those convictions.
Michael Fortier, who knew about the plot but did not warn authorities, testified against McVeigh and Nichols. He received a 12-year sentence and was released into the federal witness protection program in 2007.