Bombing anniversary brings remembrance, commemorative actions
By Patrick B. McGuigan
A range of federal and state actions were approved in recent weeks to mark the 15th anniversary of the A.P. Murrah Federal Building Bombing in Oklahoma City. Along with this week’s bombing memorial events, these sustained efforts assure remembrance of those who died, and increase chances that the shock and horror of that day is never forgotten.
First Christian Church in Oklahoma City held a memorial concert Sunday at 2 p.m. The church was the place where families of those who died learned of their fate 15 years ago.
On Monday, April 19, 168 seconds of silence will be observed at 9:02 a.m. at the bombing site and elsewhere in the capitol city of Oklahoma. Monday morning’s remembrance will begin at 8:55 a.m., leading to the time of silence. A national media symposium will be held Monday afternoon, while Wednesday brings presentation of the Reflections of Hope award to former President Bill Clinton.
Last week, U.S. Rep Mary Fallin offered what she termed “a resolution of hope.” In a statement accompanying passage of her bombing remembrance measure in the Congress, she said that 15 years ago “the state of Oklahoma and our nation saw the face of evil. But rather than cower in fear we came together. From the very first moments after the blast, neighbors rushed forward to help neighbors. They lined up around the block to give blood. They became volunteer rescuers – and one, a nurse, gave her life in that effort.
“As our wounds began to heal, we vowed always to remember those we lost, those who were injured and those who were changed forever. Five years after the bombing, in 2000, a beautiful and peaceful outdoor memorial was dedicated on the same block that was once marked by blood and tears.”
Fallin went on to note the empty chairs remembering those who died in the blast, the reflecting pool and “a tough old tree that survived the blast.” For many, the chairs, the pool and the museum now in the former Journal Record building embody what Fallin called “the physical symbols of hope.” The children of many of those died that day are attending college thanks to the generous response of Oklahomans.
At the Oklahoma state Capitol, the Legislature recently passed House Bill 2750, mandating incorporation of instruction on the bombing in public school curriculum.
The state Board of Education had already, on February 4, required inclusion of such instruction in the state core curriculum. At the board’s March 25 meeting, members voted to make the February “emergency” rule permanent.
State Superintendent Sandy Garrett, who chairs the Board, said the actions make certain the significance of the event to state, national and world history is preserved in instruction.
“Social studies teachers have included the Murrah bombing in instruction since April 20, 1995, and teachers, students and schools have been involved with the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum in a multitude of ways,” Garrett said. “However, formalizing this into mandated curriculum standards ensures this event is covered with as much, if not more depth 25 years from now as it is today.”
She added: “History doesn’t stand still, so we must always be vigilant that our curriculum standards reflect what is, and what must continue to be taught in the classroom.”
H.B. 2750 — sponsored by state Sen. Ron Justice of Chickasha and state Rep. Lee Denney of Cushing — gained Gov. Brad Henry’s signature in a ceremony at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum on March 25.
Henry reflected, after he signed the bill and thanked sponsors, “Although the events of April 19, 1995 are indelibly etched in the minds of so many Oklahomans, most of today’s school children were not even born when that day dramatically changed our history. It is essential for them and the generations of students that follow to learn the significance of this horrific event just as they learn about other important events in this great state’s history.
“History is a powerful educational tool and it can help shape the future for the better if we teach the right lessons today. We owe it to the victims, the survivors and all of the people touched by this tragic event to remember April 19 and understand what it meant and still means to this state and this nation.”
Memorial officials, including Kari Watkins, executive director, said educators can receive curriculum material at any time by contacting the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum at 405-235-3313 or at their website at www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org.
In comments touching on the bombing anniversary, Sen. Andrew Rice, representing MidTown Oklahoma City at the state Capitol, called for discretion and care in political rhetoric, especially on the part of government leaders.
In a statement sent to CapitolBeatOK, Rice said, “All elected officials have a tremendous responsibility to be careful with the words we choose to use in public. At a time when more and more people are using words that carry violent connotations to express what may be legitimate frustrations with government policies, you would hope that elected officials would refrain from feeding into that frenzy.”