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Oklahoma City Bombing Victims Remembered

Aired April 19, 2001 - 09:59   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Six years ago today, almost to this very moment, a thunderous explosion ripped into Oklahoma City and it rumbled across the nation. When the smoke cleared, a federal building lay in ruins. Hundreds of lives were left in tatters and a new, disturbing vulnerability descended on the American psyche. Terrorism had ushered in a cruel reality.

CNN's Gary Tuchman is in Oklahoma City this morning where a ceremony that may bring back many tearful memories to folks is about to get underway -- Gary.

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Leon, the weather was very similar that day six years ago. It was chilly. It was windy. It was overcast. It was also 9:02 a.m. Central time, 10:02 a.m. Eastern time on April 19, 1995, when it happened, when the Murrah Federal Building was blown up by a truck bomb.

The building stood right behind me. It's no longer here. It was imploded about a month and a half later. Now, the Oklahoma City bombing memorial is here and this is where this commemoration will take place. It's scheduled to take place any minute. It will start with the reading of the memorial mission statement and then there will be 168 seconds of silence, one second of silence for each of the victims. That will last about two and a half minutes and then we'll hear church bells throughout Oklahoma City to commemorate this very sad anniversary.

Behind me there's 168 chairs. They are made of bronze and glass. Each chair has a victim's name on it. Nineteen of the chairs are very small and they represent the 19 children who were killed inside the Alfred P. Murrah federal building when that bomb went off six years ago.

What will happen during the ceremony, each name will be read, the 168 names, after the church bells are rung. At that point, family members of those who died will go out to the chairs. They will sit on the chairs, they will place flowers on the chairs and also other types of keepsakes such as stuffed animals, teddy bears on the children's chairs.

Every year we have a commemoration here in Oklahoma City since this bombing on April 19, 1995, but this year it's getting extra attention because of what's scheduled next month. Next month, May 16, the expected date of the execution of Timothy McVeigh. Just last week the attorney general of the United States, John Ashcroft, came to Oklahoma City. He talked with family members here, who all told him they want to be witnesses to the execution. Two days later Ashcroft decided he would provide a closed circuit video feed here in Oklahoma City so up to 250 family members could be witnesses to the execution on television.

In addition, 10 people from Oklahoma, family members, will be allowed to go to the U.S. penitentiary in Terre Haute and be eyewitnesses in person. Originally they were going to allow eight family members. Ashcroft increased that to 10.

We're expecting that as early as tomorrow Ashcroft will announce which 10 family members will be allowed to witness it in person and we're expecting later today to find out where in Oklahoma City that closed circuit viewing will be in the city.

During the trial of Timothy McVeigh they had a closed circuit viewing since the trial was held in Denver, and they had it at an FAA center near the Will Rogers World Airport. That's the Oklahoma City airport. It's possible that the closed circuit viewing will be held in the very same place. But as of yet, we haven't been told yet.

Now, what's unusual about this ceremony, it was really scheduled to start at the stroke of nine o'clock Central Time because the bombing happened at 9:02 and they like the silence to happen at the same time. Right now, according to my watch it is 9:02 Central Time and the ceremony hasn't, as of yet, started. But it is anticipated it will start any time. What's really interesting, we're standing now and you can see the crowds behind me, these are all family members who are standing here and survivors and the rescue workers who were inside that building on April 19, 1995.

One hundred sixty-seven of the 168 people who were killed were people who were in the building when the bomb went off. One person who was killed was a nurse, a rescue worker who went inside to try to help out. She was hit by falling debris in the building. She was rushed out of the building. She was still alive. She was brought to the hospital and she later died, for a total of 168 people who were killed.

So the people you're looking at are all people directly affected. No one else is allowed to be standing right now outside in the plaza. So we recognize a lot of these faces. We have seen these people for six years. They've gone through some very difficult times. There have been several suicides among people who were inside the building and survived, and family members, very sad aspect to the story.

There have also been a lot of tough times for many of the people. We just talked a short time ago with Bud Welch. He lost his daughter Julie. She was 23 years old. She worked for the Social Security Administration inside the Murrah federal building and he told us that he suffered from tobacco and alcohol abuse after this happened because of the sadness he was experiencing. He told us six years ago that, this is something very interesting, that he would not favor the death penalty for Timothy McVeigh if McVeigh ever got the death penalty, and he says despite some wavering over the years, he still feels that way, that he is against the death penalty -- Leon.

HARRIS: Gary, it's interesting that you raise that point and bring up that comment from him because I'm sitting here and as I see the camera panning across the crowd I'm thinking back to conversations that we have had with survivors and family members over the years, as I hear the bells now begin to ring and people sort of maybe just beginning to start. But do you get a sense at all from talking with them whether in the process of their moving on and getting on with their lives this memorial...

BOB JOHNSON, CHMN., NATIONAL MEMORIAL TRUST: The church bells signal 9:00 A.M....

HARRIS: ... and this construction means more than Timothy McVeigh's execution?

JOHNSON: ... just as they did six years ago...

HARRIS: Let's begin, let's listen in to the service, Gary.

JOHNSON: ... moments before our world was dramatically altered. Good morning and welcome. I'm Bob Johnson, Chairman of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Trust. As we have for the past six years, we come together today to honor and respect those who were so senselessly taken from us, those who had persevered so much pain and those who worked so selflessly to help on that terrible morning, April 19, 1995.

Since that time, together we have accomplished much. Your loved ones have not been forgotten and the memorial is a fitting tribute to assure that they never will be. The memorial center is a place where people can come and learn of the terror of that morning and of the valiant response and the outpouring of kindness. It is a place where you can not mistaken the senselessness of violence.

To date, thousands have come. Eventually, millions will.

This morning, just as was proclaimed on the gates of time, we come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope and serenity.

At this time it's my pleasure to introduce the chairman of the Memorial Foundation, Mr. Rowland Denman.

ROWLAND DENMAN, CHMN., MEMORIAL FOUNDATION: Please join with us in observing the 168 seconds of silence. It will seem like an eternity but each second represents one life that perished. At the end of the time, may our church bells raise us up.

Let's join together now in silence.



DENMAN: Thank you.


TED WILSON, CHAPLAIN, OKLAHOMA CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT: I'd like to share a passage of scripture with you that I've used as a prayer, an accessory prayer many times on your behalfs and a personal prayer on mine. And as I read this, I'd like you to remember my mom. She's in the hospital and has been since January the 1st, and in grave condition. So if you would remember her and whisper a prayer for her for me, and for her. Her name is Billi Cabrera (ph).

In Isaiah Chapter 40, the scripture says, "Have you not known, have you not heard the everlasting God, the Lord, the creator of the ends of the earth never faints nor is weary? There is no searching for his understanding. He gives power to the weak and to those who have no might, increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary and the young men shall utterly fall. But those that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles and run and not be weary and walk and not faint."

Would you please join me in your tradition as we pray? Our father again, we have gathered here to honor, to remember, to love each other, to express our sorrow, to lift each other's hearts, to encourage and we ask for that from you in this moment. And, God, we pray that those who are evildoers, those who have evil thoughts today to wreak havoc and create trouble and acts of terror, that they would just for a moment pause in the midst of their hate and destructions their thoughts, to see through the eyes of those present here today, of those who are not here, of those who can never be here.

And, God, we ask that you allow them to have just a glimpse through your eyes, the sights, the pain, the anguish. And I ask, God, that you change those thoughts right now to peace, to service, to those things that are honorable and not dishonorable and gutless and cowardice. Give them the courage to stand with us against evil.

But, God, we also ask for your comfort, your peace, your solace. With your huge loving arms right now, wrap them up and continue to bind up the broken hearted today, issuing your strength, your comfort and your peace to all who need it.

There are some who still need physical healing and we pray for that. We pray for mom. We pray you comfort them and we pray that you touch them with a touch that only you can give and you issue to them your presence and a very precious special reminder that you love them and that you're ever so near. And father, we thank you for those who we've had the privilege to know, to love, to have had in our homes, to have been a part of their lives and those who we remember today. And, God, we thank you for them. We ask these things in my Lord's name, amen.

JOHNSON: The Oklahoma City National Memorial offers a challenge to every person who comes here. It is a challenge in which every person, man, woman and child, can take responsibility. In a word, it is peace. Please join survivors Susan Erbach (ph) and Calvin Moser, and the wife of a survivor, Glenn Williams (ph), as they lead us in "Let There Be Peace On Earth."


JOHNSON: The most sacred of the memorial grounds is the site where the Murrah building once stood, now a field...

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We've been listening to the anniversary ceremony, the sixth anniversary ceremony of the bombing that took place in Oklahoma City. As we take you to break a remembrance of what happened six years ago today, almost exactly to the minute.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there's been an explosion downtown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We have just had some kind of explosion downtown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We need help. This is the fire department.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It may be the federal building. I'm not sure.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Man, this -- this is bad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've definitely got damage and injuries all up and down Broadway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The roof has collapsed.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a lot of people here. We need (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The whole side of the federal building is gone, all floors to the roof. You have a roof and windows gone.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it's the federal building. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) It's totally demolished. We need to get the units over here (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need some more help up here for first aid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are about 20 kids trapped over here in this building.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got several people trapped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And where's that car to clear injured right here? We need some help.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I need about three more companies to help with rescue. I need some ambulances here. I've got some hurt -- some critically hurt people.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: About a third of the building has been blown away and you can see just smoke and debris and fire on the ground, downtown on the ground. This is just devastating.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There are just bodies laying everywhere. There's people just laying there screaming, trying to get out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got a critical!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've got people standing on the second floor jumping out windows. And we've got the child day car center somewhere up here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're supposed to have at least 25 to 30 children in this area. We've only found about four or five.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Got one (AUDIO GAP) They're down here!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Out of the way. Out of the way.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: We are seeing injured people everywhere, literally dozens of people that are bleeding. Some of them, you can't even make them out, they are so badly injured.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just kept falling. And there was a horrible noise -- horrible noise.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems like the whole world ended. I mean, ceilings and window glass come out.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because of this guy, I might have lost my 3-year-old daughter and my husband and my 4-year-old. Whoever did this, I hope you're happy.




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