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Oklahoma City bombing remembered by virtual commemoration, 25 years later


FILE – In this March 18, 2020 file photo, visitors walk next to the reflecting pool at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum in Oklahoma City. The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum has announced that it will offer a recorded, one-hour television program in place of a live ceremony to mark 25 years after the Oklahoma City bombing due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki, File)

(FOX) — Survivors and victims’ families came together Sunday to pay virtual tribute to the lives lost and lives altered 25 years ago on April 19, 1995, when a truck bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City.

Coronavirus restrictions forced the cancelation of the ceremony at the site of the tragedy. Instead, the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum aired an hour-long pre-recorded video that included the reading of the names of the 168 victims.

The commemoration also featured 168 seconds of silence.

“On this day 25 years ago, our people experience a senseless attack that shook our state and nation to its very core,” Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt told viewers.

“No words or measure of time can fully heal the scars rooted in that day, but we will and we must never forget the wisdom we gained and the lesson we learned,” he said.

Law enforcement initially suspected foreign terrorists: The attack happened about two years after Islamic terrorists detonated a truck bomb inside a parking garage at the World Trade Center in New York.

But prosecutors would soon learn the Oklahoma City attackers were U.S. citizens and that their bombing was inspired by a different 1993 event.

Hatred of the federal government motivated former Army soldier Timothy McVeigh and his co-conspirator, Terry Nichols, to commit what many experts still refer to as the deadliest act of domestic terrorism on U.S. soil. McVeigh was ultimately convicted, sentenced to death and executed by lethal injection in 2001. Nichols was sentenced to life in prison.

The day McVeigh selected – April 19 – was exactly two years after federal agents raided the compound of the Branch Davidian religious sect near Waco, Texas. At least 76 people, including about two dozen teens and children, died on the day of the raid, mostly from a fire that swept through the compound.

McVeigh had visited the compound during the 51-day standoff that preceded the raid, and prosecutors say that fueled his anger toward the federal government, culminating in the Oklahoma City attack. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, which conducted the initial raid of the Waco compound, had offices inside the Murrah building.

Jill Randolph worked at the Federal Credit Union in the Murrah Building and was in a meeting when the bomb went off at 9:02 a.m.

“She was literally writing on a legal pad, they were preparing for an audit and the floor gave way between them,” her sister Lori Neace told KOKI-TV Sunday.

They found her body in the basement.

“I believe we don’t realize the impact of our life, we don’t realize the influence we are of just our regular every day until really something like this happens, and that person is gone and the reality of what their presence meant is really strong,” Neace told the station.

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt told The Associated Press last week that there were a lot of things to grieve this spring, and the loss of the commemoration in person was one of them.

“But I think we’ve accepted that’s clearly the right thing to do,” he said.

During last year’s ceremony, Holt stressed the importance of educating new generations about the attack and the dangers of the violence and hatred that inspired it. Among those killed by the massive truck bomb that sheared off the building’s front half were 19 children, most of whom were in a daycare center in the basement.

“It was just so jarring that somebody would do this to innocent victims, especially children,” said former Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating, an ex-FBI agent who was just four months into his job as governor when the attack happened.

Attorney General Bill Barr said in a statement Sunday, “A quarter-century after the bombing in the American heartland, we rightly continue to honor the victims, the first responders, and the everyday citizens who immediately acted with courage and selflessness. We should remember that the cowardly act that struck Oklahoma City arose from an extremist ideology. But, also we must know that we, as a people, possess the moral clarity and will to overcome those malevolent movements that seek to undermine our principles and divide our nation.”

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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