by Bill Johnson
American Reporter Correspondent
Oklahoma City, Okla.
Feb. 19, 2001
A SOMBER BUSH DEDICATES MEMORIAL TO OKLAHOMA DEAD
OKLAHOMA CITY -- The broken windows and shattered walls - all the outward signs of terror - have been patched and repaired now, and President Bush called upon Americans Monday to "enforce laws and reject hatred and bigotry" so another Oklahoma City bombing can never occur again.
"The presence of evil always reminds us of the need for vigilance," Bush said as he dedicated the museum commemorating the April 19, 1995, bombing of the federal building.
"We must enforce laws and reject hatred and bigotry. And we have a duty to watch for warning signs," Bush said.
It was less than a year ago when Bush's predecessor, President Bill Clinton, stood in the same area where 168 people died in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil to dedicate the national memorial. The museum, which contains memories and mementos of that day, is the latest part of the memorial opened to visitors, with photos and other items that bring a terrible moment of horror and history back once again.
Included in the display is a sound recording of a meeting at the Oklahoma Water Resources Boardthat began just across the street at 9 a.m. The rumble and crash of the explosion came just two minutes later.
Nearly 1,500 people braved a typical Oklahoma wind to help honor those who were gone, their lives snuffed out in a moment of senseless fury. Timothy McVeigh, a decorated former soldier, is scheduled todie on May 16 for setting off the truck bomb.
Before the formal ceremony, Bush and his wife, Laura, were escorted on a tour of the museum by Jeannine Gist, mother of one of the victims, Karen Karr. Inside a room full of photos of those who died, each one accompanied by a memento of the victim's life, she paused, pointed at one picture, and said, "This is my daughter here." At another point Bush viewed the wedding portrait of Cindy Brown, who died just five weeks after being married to a fellow U.S. Secret Service agent. Three other Secret Service agents also died that day.
"We knew some of the agents here," Bush said. Brown's husband is on Bush's protective detail. Another agent killed in the blast, Alan G. Whicher, protected Bush's father.
Bush said in his speech that most violent acts are preced= ed by a threat from the perpetrator. "We allhave a duty to watch for and report troubling signs," he said.
He also told the crowd that the tragedy must never be forgotten.
"The time for mourning may have passed, but the time for remembering never does," Bush said.
A similar theme was sounded by Don Ferrell, who lost his 37-year-old daughter, Susan Ferrell, in the bombing.
"We come here to remember," Ferrell said. "In the weeks that followed the bombing, I feared the nation and the world would soon forget the senseless sacrifice of 168 lives, including that of our daughter,Susan."
But, he said, the memorial and the museum will assure that the tragedy does not fade from memory.
"Here we remember one act of malice," the president said. "Yet we also remember many acts of kindness and love." The President praised rescue workers and civic leaders who helped the state and the nation recover from the bombing.
"Together you endured," he said. "You chose to live out the words of St. Paul: 'Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.'"
One of the most touching parts of the ceremony came near the end when a children's choir sang, "Let There Be Peace on Earth," with the ending, "Let it begin with m= e."
In a city which should have been wrung free of tears in the nearly six years that have passed since that horrible moment, there were tears streaming down the faces of many. "We are never closer to God than when we grieve," Bush said. He told the audience to "look beyond our lives to the hour when God will wipe away every tear and death will be swallowed up in victory."
"On this earth, tragedy may come even on a warm Spring day, but tragedy can never touch eternity.This is where [the victims] were last; but beyond the gates of time lie a life eternal and a love everlasting."
The ceremony came just a few days after the deadline passed for McVeigh to seek executive clemency from Bush.
Bill Johnson, a 42-year veteran of the Associated Press, has reported on the Oklahoma City bombing and its aftermath for The American Reporter since April 19, 1995. His story on an Oklahoma City cattle roundup appeared in our very first edition, on April 10, 1995. Bill passed away several years ago.