Oklahomans forever changed gather to remember

OKLAHOMA CITY – It’s been 18 years since the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

It would remain the most destructive act of terrorism on American soil until September 11, 2001.

The bombing claimed 168 lives, including 19 children under the age of 6.

The devastating images were burned into our hearts and minds.

Oneta Johnson and Angela Richerson lost their mother, Norma “Jean” Johnson, in the blast.

“We waited for 10 days for my mother to be found,” Richerson said.

While they waited, they prayed for a miracle.

“We kept hoping we’d see her,” she said. “Sometimes we think we’d saw her.”

Ultimately their worst fear was confirmed.

“The only way we knew it was her was because we got her jewelry back,” Richerson said. “We never got to see her again.”

The sisters come to every memorial ceremony to remember and to honor.

In order to make sure no victims were forgotten, a local florist donated roses to make sure every chair had a flower.

Remembering the victims is something very important to the sisters.

“The last thing my mom told me is ‘don’t forget me,’ which I know was because we drove together and it was to remember to pick her up,” Johnson said. “But it’s become something completely different and a whole new meaning now.”

One hundred sixty-eight lives lost but not forgotten.

Kathryn Burkett is remembering her son, David who worked in the HUD office and was also killed.

“When I heard it, I thought, ‘No that’s not David’s building.’ There’s other federal buildings. It can’t be his,” Burkett said.

The close-knit family anxiously waited for word; praying for the best but bracing for the worst.

David’s sister, Debi Moore, recalled the day of the bombing.

“We kept watching for him, knowing David we knew he would be out helping people and not taking time to call,” Moore said.

The family finally got the news that they had been dreading.

“They found him five days later,” Burkett said. “That was pure torture.”

Even in the middle of disaster, the Oklahoma standard held firm, a community that showed its inner strength to a nation.

Visitors who came to Friday’s ceremony were given seedlings from the survivor tree as a symbol of growth through tragedy.

Now Oklahoma City serves as an inspiration for other communities facing dark times.

“We do enjoy coming out here, seeing the families we’ve got to know through the years,” Moore said “It’s just a peaceful place now.”