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At bombing’s 10th anniversary, Oklahomans focus on hope

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–Ten years have passed since the single worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history shattered a beautiful spring morning, when Timothy McVeigh and accomplice Terry Nichols triggered a massive explosion that sheared the north side of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.

The April 19, 1995, blast not only ripped apart the nine-story structure built in 1977 at a cost of $14.5 million but also changed the lives of people all across the country.

Organizers of the bombing’s 10th anniversary are commemorating the event with a “National Week of Hope” emphasis, which includes a variety of events honoring “those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever.”

“A Day of Remembrance” was held today, April 19, with 168 seconds of silence and the reading of the names of those who were killed. The ceremony also recognized the survivors of the bombing and their journey over the past 10 years. Victims’ families, survivors and rescue workers then joined for a reunion and lunch.

The newest exhibit at the Oklahoma City National Memorial opened April 19, titled, “Changed Forever, Forever Changing, celebrating Oklahoma’s strength and spirit — telling stories of life moving forward with resilience.” The day will be capped with the awarding of the inaugural “Reflections of Hope Award” during an evening dinner.

“The award honors a living person or group whose extraordinary work has significantly impacted a community, state or nation and exemplifies that hope not only survives, but also thrives in wake of political violence,” said Kari Watkins, executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

The observance actually began April 1, when “Spreading our Branches,” a project to plant seedlings from one of the bombing’s most recognizable icons — the Survivor Tree, an 80-year-old American elm that withstood the blast — in each of the Oklahoma communities which lost at least one of its citizens on April 19, 1995.

“We felt strongly that planting a seedling from the Survivor Tree, which has become such a symbol of strength, would demonstrate the importance of the second decade,” Watkins said.

The plantings began April 1 in Amber and Chickasha and were to conclude April 19 in Oklahoma City.

Sunday, April 17, was designated as “A Day of Faith” for congregations throughout Oklahoma City, culminating with a candlelight ceremony at the downtown memorial led by author Max Lucado and Christian musicians Sandi Patti and Clay Crosse to symbolize the healing over the past decade and to recognize the dozens of chaplains who assisted during the aftermath of the explosion.

On Monday, April 18, “A Day of Understanding,” a national media symposium addressed the impact of terrorism over the past 10 years. Brian Williams, anchor of “NBC Nightly News,” was the symposium’s keynote speaker.

Still ahead:

— “A Day of Sharing,” April 20, when victims’ family members, survivors and rescue workers will participate in an educational program in schools across the state.

“This will give Oklahoma students the chance to hear incredible stories of hope and survival firsthand while learning about the impact of violence,” Watkins said.

— “A Day of Tolerance,” April 21, offers 15 Oklahoma schools the opportunity to participate in the Oklahoma City National Memorial’s first simulated Model United Nations Security Council. The event is designed to lead students through the process of working through a potentially volatile situation to find nonviolent resolutions.

— “A Day of Caring,” April 22, which showcases Oklahoma recording artists in a concert at Oklahoma City’s Ford Center.

— “A Day of Inspiration,” April 23, in which victims’ families, survivors and rescue workers will greet several thousand runners who have come to participate in the annual Oklahoma City memorial marathon the next day.

“It is our hope that people who have never visited the memorial will take this opportunity to experience Oklahoma at its best,” Watkins said. “Likewise, we invite those who were a part of the recovery and building efforts to return to Oklahoma City and experience just how far we have come.”
Bob Nigh is managing editor of Oklahoma Baptists’ newsjournal, the Baptist Messenger, online at www.baptistmessenger.com.

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  • Bob Nigh