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Oklahoma Memories

15th Anniversary of Murrah Bombing


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"If anyone thinks that Americans have lost the capacity for love and caring and courage, they ought to come to Oklahoma."

That's the voice of then-President Bill Clinton speaking at the memorial service on Sunday, April 23, 1995, the Sunday after the Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City had been destroyed by a bomb.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

The subject of the Murrah bombing has been in the news recently, whether that bombing should be included in Oklahoma History classes. It was 15 years ago this morning that downtown Oklahoma City was rocked by a massive explosion. News outlets began reporting on the explosion within minutes.

"This is Jim Palmer in the WKY News Center. There apparently has been some sort of explosion in downtown Oklahoma City in the vicinity of Northwest 5th and Robinson. Emergency crews are in route to that scene and as well as WKY News reporters."

WKY News Director Jim Palmer ran that bulletin at approximately 9:07, just a few minutes after the explosion occurred. News crews raced into the downtown area not knowing what to expect.

"Huge plume of black smoke drifting from the center of downtown to the west. It's all the way over to El Reno now, I would say. You can see it for miles."

That was news reporter Billie Rodely, driving south on the Broadway Extension toward the downtown area. From Wednesday the 19th to Sunday the 22nd, the news was a blur of stories about the destruction, the deaths, and those who were injured in the bombing. Then on Sunday, April 23rd, the healing began with a service at the state fairgrounds arena. Governor Frank Keating spoke.

"He confronted God, and he asked why he had ceased to walk beside him when he most needed that support. Why, he wondered, had God abandoned him, and God answered,‘But, my son, those were the times I was carrying you.' He carries us today, cupped gently in His loving hands."

Keating was followed by President Bill Clinton…

"I could only recall the words of Governor and Mrs. Keating. ‘If anybody thinks that Americans are mostly mean and selfish, they ought to Oklahoma. If anyone thinks that Americans have lost the capacity for love and caring and courage, they ought to come to Oklahoma.' "

Then the Reverend Billie Graham spoke to the group.

"Someday the wounds will heal, and someday those who thought they could sow chaos and discord will be brought to justice as President Clinton has so eloquently promised. The wounds of this tragedy are deep, but the courage and the faith and determination of the people of Oklahoma City are even deeper."

What was said there collectively became known as the Oklahoma Spirit. Weeks later the remains of the building were imploded, and a memorial was created on the grounds.Today the Murrah Memorial attracts visitors from around the country. They come to Oklahoma City to pay their respects and to remember what, until September 11th, was the worst case of terrorism ever perpetrated on American soil. The audio clips are from the Jim Palmer collection, a part of the archives of the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.