It was a day to look back, both to 18 years ago and to Monday.
About 1,000 people gathered Friday at the First United Methodist Church for the 18th Anniversary Remembrance Ceremony of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
As they gathered to remember and honor the 168 people who died as a result of that attack, they were reminded of the importance of response in years since and that of the future, which was re-emphasized Monday with the bombings at the Boston Marathon.
Gary Pierson, chairman of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation, said that April 19, 1995, ended as a day the nation will never forget. But the response began immediately and will not end.
‘Far from complete'
“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 to those gathered.
“Our mission is far from complete. There is no more graphic reminder of that than the smoke rising from the finish line in Boston. In a nation and a world where innocent people are targeted by violence, it is crucial that we continue what we started here over 18 years ago — overcoming evil with goodness, replacing fear with courage and helping others to move from despair to hope.”
Gov. Mary Fallin also mentioned the tragedy this week in Boston.
“We grieve for those who have been killed or suffered injuries in the bombing attack in Boston,” she said.
“It's a true tragedy, and our hearts break for our fellow Americans and especially those in Boston and the families who have suffered so much. Oklahoma City knows all too well what it's like to go through a tragedy like that. We offer our thoughts and prayers.”
In addition to the speakers, Friday's ceremony also included 11-year-old Campbell Walker Fields singing the “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
After George Skramstad's playing of “The Lord's Prayer” on violin, the names of the 168 who died were read with mentions of “my mother,” “my sister,” “my aunt,” “my brother,” “my son” and “my dad” included.
About sunrise Friday, Jerry Hyden, field office director of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Oklahoma City Field Office, and Mike Anderson, chief counsel for the Department of Housing and Urban Development in Oklahoma, walked into the Field of Empty Chairs at the Outdoor Symbolic Memorial.
They began attaching white carnations to the backs of the chairs of the 35 Department of Housing and Urban Development individuals who died.
Their office has done this annually, said Anderson, who has helped place the flowers on the chairs for about 10 years.
Hyden, who has participated for four years, said the thing that doesn't change is the good memories of those lost.
He offered the example of his friend, the late Michael D. Weaver.
Weaver was an attorney for HUD, and at the time Anderson and Hyden were working in HUD's office in Tulsa.
“Weaver would come over once or twice a week to take care of the legal business we needed to have done in the Tulsa HUD office, and he was such a funny guy,” Hyden said.
“Mike could smell doughnuts from five miles away, and that's the truth. And he knew where the coffee was.
“I used to kid him about having a permanent coffee grip in his hand. And Mike was what, 6 foot tall, 150 pounds maybe, and he could still eat a dozen doughnuts before you could blink. We really miss him and everyone.”
The remembrance ceremony was held inside for only the fourth time. This marked the third year it was moved indoors because of weather.
With a forecast of temperatures in the 30s, officials decided Thursday to hold this year's ceremony at the First United Methodist Church, at NW 5 and Robinson, near the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.
“This sanctuary was built because of what happened on April 19, 1995, as this Land Run church was determined to rebuild after significant and horrible damage rather than succumb to the forces of evil,” Pierson said.