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Former first lady looks back on the April 19, 1995, bombing of Oklahoma City's federal building

Laura Bush shares how the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum remembers the past and educates in the present and for the future.
by Bryan Painter Published: April 19, 2011

People talk about how far the blast was felt April 19, 1995, from the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

As of today, the official distance is 16 years. That distance will continue to increase.

People not only remember where they were when they heard the news, but they remember the days and years after, and they talk about how that day pertains to this day.

Among those is former first lady Laura Bush. Her memories are an example of how that day and this day, 16 years later, affect the world.

“I remember very well when we heard about the bombing,” Bush said during a visit to Oklahoma City last week. “George and I were in the Texas Governor's Mansion then. We had already gotten to know the Keatings very well from all the National Governors Association meetings that we'd been to before. We were shocked and horrified by it.”

Four days later, George W. Bush — then the Texas governor — and Laura Bush were in Oklahoma City to attend the memorial service to mourn those who died and to reach out to survivors and bereaved families.

They returned 10 years ago, on Feb. 19, 2001, as the president and first lady for the dedication of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.

“It was very emotional, and I'm so proud of the way Oklahomans have built that museum and reached out to people around the world,” Laura Bush said.

Bush talked about how Kari Watkins, executive director, and her staff have reached out to cooperate with others, including the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the 9/11 memorial in New York. She also talked about what the national memorial in Oklahoma City means to those who visit.

“I think the memorial and the museum make such a really very stunning reminder of the senselessness of it, and the tragedy of it, and the loss of life, of innocent life,” she said. “People who went off to work and expected to come home, said goodbye to their spouse or children and never came home again, and how very, very difficult that is.

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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Bombing anniversary

8:45 a.m. today

• Prelude: Oklahoma City police Sgt. Justin Echols

• Bagpiper procession: Kevin M. Donnelly, pipe sergeant, DEA Black and Gold Pipes and Drums

• Welcome: John Richels, chairman, Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation

• Mission statement: Nicholas Ryan Smith, YMCA survivor and memorial volunteer

9:02 a.m.

• 168 seconds of silence

9:05 a.m.

• Invocation: the Rt. Rev. Steven Charleston, St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral

• Posting of colors: Oklahoma City Fire and Police Departments Joint Color Guard

• National anthem: Echols

9:15 a.m.

• What the (Oklahoma City National) Memorial & Museum means to me as a ... family member — Donna Weaver, wife of Michael Weaver; a survivor — Richard Williams, General Services Administration; a rescue worker — Oklahoma City police Maj. Ed Hill

• What the memorial and museum means to our state and nation: Gov. Mary Fallin

• “God Bless America”: Echols

9:30 a.m.

• Reading of 168 names: Visitors are to remain seated until all names have been read.

10 a.m.

• Cox Communications Community Day: On this day, entry into the memorial and museum is free. After the ceremony, the memorial and museum will open at 10 a.m. Last entry into the museum is at 6 p.m.

11 a.m.

• National 9/11 Flag Historic Stitching Ceremony: In a historic stitching ceremony, New York City firefighters and local service heroes will repair an American flag destroyed in the aftermath of 9/11.

4 p.m.

• Planting of Survivor Tree Seedling at Taft Middle School, 2901 NW 23: 75 Taft Middle School students who are scheduled to participate in the Memorial Marathon this May will plant a “Wish Tree” as part of a nationwide initiative.

Noon Wednesday

•  The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum will honor former President George W. Bush, first lady Laura Bush and family with the 2011 Reflections of Hope Award during a luncheon at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, 1700 NE 63. Barbara Pierce Bush and Jenna Hager, the former president's daughters, are scheduled to receive the award on behalf of their family. A ticket is required.

Other reflections

• Frank Keating, governor at the time of the bombing: “Virtually each time I meet an out-of-state visitor to the memorial-museum, their response is the same. The experience was spiritual, vivid, memorable, humbling, patriotic, or life altering. Few are not profoundly affected.”

• Jon R. Wallace, The Salvation Army Disaster Social Services director who traveled to Oklahoma City in the hours after the April 19, 1995, bombing: “The memorial- museum is an instrument of peace that effectively communicates the resilience of a community, the compassion of a state, and the goodness of a people to respond, recover, and rebuild from a senseless act of intolerance.”

• Charlie Hanger, who as an Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper stopped a Mercury sedan with no license plate on Interstate 35 on April 19, 1995. He arrested the driver, Timothy McVeigh, on a firearms offense: “I feel like the museum has not only memorialized the events of April 19, 1995, it has shown the victims and the families of those who were killed that tragic day, that we will never forget.”


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