CNHI News Service
OKLAHOMA CITY — On a chilly Friday morning, Michelle Cregan helped family members place flowers at the chair honoring her grandmother Katherine Louise Cregan.
Katherine was a 60-year-old widow devoted to three sons, two grandsons and her three daughters when someone she never knew would end her life. She was a Social Security Administration employee working on the first floor of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.
At 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, Timothy McVeigh parked a Ryder truck filled with explosives near the building and detonated the bomb that sheared the entire north side of the building, murdering 168 men, women and children. Hundreds more were injured, leaving many with lingering physical and emotional scars.
Eighteen years later, the memories of the day that changed a city, a state and a nation forever are still painfully fresh for Michelle.
“It’s hard to believe it’s been 18 years because it still seems like yesterday that it happened,” she said. “Those feelings are still pretty raw. Especially with what happened in Boston it brings back a lot of memories. Our hearts go out to them.”
Cregan said her thoughts have been with the survivors and families of the victims. She spoke of her torment waiting to know if her family member was OK.
“That was one of the hardest things, not knowing,” Cregan said.
The Oklahoma City bombing was the worst act of homegrown terrorism in U.S. history.
Due to Friday morning’s chilly weather, the anniversary ceremony was held indoors across the street at First United Methodist Church.
Gary Pierson, chairman of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation, said the church was determined to rebuild after suffering significant damage “rather than succumb to the forces of evil.”
Pierson said the nation will never forget the events that transpired on April 19, 1995.
“It was a day of unspeakable terror and pain that has now transcended into nearly two decades of bravery, compassion, vision and routine displays of character of the highest order,” Pierson said.
Gov. Mary Fallin, who was lieutenant governor in 1995, said the 168 victims lost in the bombing will never be forgotten. She recalled how she and then-Gov. Frank Keating were at the state Capitol and had just finished a breakfast event. She recalled the sights and sounds as she walked near the site, the grim expressions on faces.
Fallin spoke about the things that were not and cannot be taken away — the love for those who died and the response that characterizes the “Oklahoma standard.”
“It’s that spirit that allows us to continue to band together today to help each other during a very difficult time of healing, and certainly, of tragedy,” she said. “This tragedy could have crippled our city, but it didn’t.”
The Oklahoma City National Memorial gives Oklahomans hope, peace and strength, Fallin said. It is also a testament to all those who responded to the bombing including first responders, volunteers, organizations and medical professionals, she said.
U.S. Rep. James Lankford said Oklahomans mark the passage of time by Jan. 1 and April 19.
“In my family it’s kind of a bitter sweet day,” he said. “Today is actually my youngest daughter’s birthday, as well... This is a day about people, about our families. It’s not about places and it’s not even about events.”
Lankford said the events in Boston stir memories and remind us how fresh the pain is for Oklahomans.
Lankford recalled how Oklahomans responded to the attack on New York City and how the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism train Boston police officers, improving information collection and reporting skills.
“Their excellence in responding there is a direct result of our gift to them,” Lankford said. “It’s significant that we as a people still continue to share what we have learned with people around our nation.”
In addition to Boston, alumni from the training include departments in New York City, Milwaukee, Denver, Chicago, Miami and the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office. The MIPT is a training partner of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.