Video: Silence honors bombing victims

updated 4/19/2005 8:24:02 PM ET 2005-04-20T00:24:02

With 168 moments of silence and the message that goodness can overcome evil, victims of the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history were remembered Tuesday at the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

Some 1,600 people inside the First United Methodist Church fell silent at 9:02 a.m., the moment the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was destroyed exactly 10 years earlier.

Some brought teddy bears and flowers to be placed at the memorial, which includes 168 empty chairs symbolizing the human cost.

“All of us respect you for the way you’ve borne tragedy over the last decade and for your great devotion to the memory of those who died here,” Vice President Cheney told survivors and loved ones.

“That spring morning 10 years is still deeply etched in our memories,” he said, adding that “goodness overcame evil that day.”

“All humanity can see you experienced bottomless cruelty and responded with heroism,” he told the crowd. “Your strength was challenged and you held firm. Your faith was tested and it has not wavered.”

Former President Clinton, who was in office at the time of the bombing, reminded mourners that “by the grace of God, time takes its toll not only on youth and beauty, but also on tragedy. The tomorrows come almost against our will. And they bring healing and hope, new responsibilities and new possibilities.”

Heavy security
There was heavy security in the First United Methodist Church, adjacent to the memorial, where the speeches were presented.

One bus brought 53 people to the ceremony, all wearing T-shirts with LaKesha Levy’s photo on the front and the words “a shared experience.”

Levy’s aunt, Gail Batiste, said friends and family came from all over the country to remember the outgoing 21-year-old, who had gone to the building the morning of April 19, 1995, to get a Social Security card.

“It’s good that Oklahoma remembers,” Batiste said.

Juanita Espinosa, wiped away tears as she stood in front of the chair of her cousin, Zackary Chavez, 2½.

“They found his head one week, and his body another week,” she said. “It’s still too much to think about.”

The bomber, Timothy McVeigh, was convicted of federal conspiracy and murder charges and executed on June 11, 2001. Conspirator Terry Nichols is serving multiple life sentences on federal and state charges.

Former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, who was in office during the bombing, said the anniversary was bittersweet.

“It’s bitter because it never should have occurred and sweet because the people of Oklahoma and Oklahoma City showed the country how to respond to a tragedy,” he said.

Woman recalls day
Jenny Parsley, who seldom visits the memorial on the grounds of the destroyed building, planned to attend Tuesday’s ceremony. She had been spared because she decided to go into work late that morning, after a doctor’s appointment.

“My workday began at 7 a.m. and I had a doctor’s appointment at 10 a.m., so I could have worked for almost three hours, but for some reason I decided to go in after my appointment,” she said. “I got up early that morning and got dressed and got ready to go to work and just decided not to go.”

McVeigh’s fertilizer and fuel-oil bomb went off at 9:02 a.m.

Parsley, 57, was driving her car and noticed thick black smoke over downtown. She thought it was a fire at a tire plant until she turned on the radio and heard that it was the federal building.

She drove to her husband’s office and discovered that her college-age son also was there. Both her husband and son thought she was in the building when the bomb exploded.

“They were crying,” she said. “When I got there, I just fell apart.”

Parsley and fellow employees returned to work at a different building in Oklahoma City. When the new federal building was dedicated last year, near the bombing site, Parsley took early retirement.

‘Life does go on’
Joseph Allbaugh, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was chief of staff for then-Texas Gov. George Bush during the Oklahoma City bombing. Allbaugh, a Blackwell native who lived and worked in Oklahoma City for 17 years, said he lost a lot of friends in the bombing.

“Yes, it was a terrible day,” he said. “We will always celebrate those 168 lives and you’ll be glad to know the city and the state have rebounded ... Life does go on.”

Jon Hansen, an assistant fire chief at the time of the blast, was preparing for a meeting at a fire station five blocks west of the federal building when the bomb went off.

“It shook our building,” he said. “We looked to the east and saw an enormous mushroom cloud.

“We drove toward the building and I’ll never forget how when we topped the hill with the sun low in the east, the street and sidewalks just glistened with broken glass.”

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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