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Oklahomans show immense strength in times of despair

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OKLAHOMA CITY - Faith.

It was the bedrock upon which many would depend during the 20 years since the Oklahoma City bombing.

It was a belief that together we would survive the horrors witnessed on that urban block on April 19, 1995.

In the two decades since the fertilizer bomb exploded, the footprint of the Murrah Building and the area around it has become sacred ground.  It was on this unique real estate that the world watched as compassion, kindness and courage overshadowed the evil of the mass murder.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial acts as a 24-hour sentinel.

It preserves our memories and insures that those who follow us won't forget what happened on a spring morning 20 years ago.

It began with an ominous sound as smoke blighted the skyline.  It served as a signal to all that something was terribly wrong.

A bomb had detonated in an attack on the federal building.  Those who could, fled the building, leaving some critically injured.  Strangers literally gave the shirts off their backs to help the more than 800 people who were hurt.

The office building became a tomb.  One hundred sixty eight were killed.  Many would remain buried in the debris for days.

Families were frantic as they searched for those they loved.  Then, word came that children were among the casualties.

President Bill Clinton addressed the nation.

“The bombing in Oklahoma City  was an attack on innocent children and defenseless citizens.  We will find the people who did this.”

Network newscasts were focused on Oklahoma City and broadcasting the tragedy around the world.

NBC’s Tom Brokaw was the first to arrive on the site.

“We couldn’t believe it was a terrorist attack,” he said.   “Here you attack a federal building in the heart of Oklahoma City, in the heart of the Heartland. It is not a radical city.  It just didn’t add up to us.  And it was sickening, quite honestly.”

Brokaw and NBC staff worked from a building that carried the scars of the explosion.  Ceilings were collapsed.  Debris littered the area.

But of all the chilling scenes Brokaw witnessed, it was an interview with one young Oklahoma woman that he remembers most vividly.

In the video above, you’ll meet the mother who captured the hearts of those watching the 24 hour live coverage of the event.  And, you’ll understand how the last 20 years have changed her.

Below, is the exclusive full length interview with Tom Brokaw.