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Oklahoma City National Memorial on a bright May morning, seven years after the bombing. Looking northwest.

A Memorial to Unanswered Questions

A personal perspective on a national tragedy.

By Bill Moore

On April 19, 1995, at precisely 9:02 AM, a Ryder truck packed with ammonia fertilizer and diesel fuel exploded in the street behind the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Plaza in downtown Oklahoma City. The explosion took the lives of 168 men, women and children, and injured nearly five hundred others. The force of the blast was enough to destroy a third of the nine story building, as well as seriously damage other adjacent structures including a nearby church rectory, law office and parking garage, all three of which had to be demolished, along with several others in the vicinity.

Within hours of the explosion, and almost by chance, the principal suspect in the bombing, Timothy McVeigh was stopped on an Oklahoma interstate for a minor traffic violation.   
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More than six years after that terrible day, the former US Army soldier and Gulf War veteran was executed by federal prison authorities, ostensibly bringing closure to this tragic event.

So, it was with a profound sense of melancholy, mixed with natural curiosity that I walked one morning the five or six blocks from my hotel to what is now the Oklahoma City National Memorial on the site of the former federal building, which sits across the street from the city’s federal court house. I was in town for the 2002 Clean Cities conference and promised myself I would visit this site sometime during my stay.

The original sign on the poured concrete wall at the corner of Robinson and NW 4th still reads "Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building Plaza." It serves to affirm that this is, indeed, the location where the building once stood for those who, like myself, visit it for the first time.

I climbed the steps up to the grassy platform that once was the main entrance to the building. From here you can overlook the memorial grounds which now occupy the former footprint of the building, the street in which the truck bomb was parked and the adjacent parking lot and former parking garage. The Oklahoma Press Building serves as the stark backdrop for this somber stage. It too was damaged by the blast.

Today, the windows facing the memorial have been permanently bricked up and painted black as a reminder of the windows that had been blown out that day. It was on the side of this building that I found a piece of graffiti that has come to haunt me, especially in the light of recent revelations that appear to link Timothy McVeigh with an Al Quida terrorist cell operating in the Philippines.

The graffiti reads, "Team 5 (4-1-95) We search for the truth. We seek justice. The courts require it. The victims cry for it. And God demands it!"

For despite the arrest, trial and execution of Timothy McVeigh; despite the demolition of the Murrah building and construction of a stirring memorial; despite our best attempts to move on with life, numerous troubling questions still remain about that horrible event.

You don’t have to search the Internet very deeply to find questions that demand answers. I’ll let the reader do their own research and reach their own conclusions, if that’s possible. Suffice it to say, that like the Kennedy assassination more than 30 years earlier, there are many theories -- some despicable in their conclusions -- and precious few answers.

Yet you can’t help but yearn for the truth as you walk slowly pass the rows of "chairs" that bear the names of each victim or as you look at the personal photos and mementos left in the chain link fence outside the memorial or discover the hand prints etched into the lower tier of the copper sheathing that clads the two "Gates of Time" anchoring the reflecting pool. The pool, just a couple inches deep, now covers the street where the truck bomb exploded. It measures 353 feet in length and 55 feet wide. A city worker measuring it that morning gave me the precise numbers. The memorial "chairs" sit on a grassy slope overlooking the pool.

These people and their survivors deserve to know why they and their children were murdered. There’s little I can do personally but urge those with the power to do something to heed the message Team 5 scrawled on the wall of the Oklahoma Press Building that sad day. We simply can’t let this tragedy sink into the fetid mire of conspiracy that surrounds Kennedy’s death in Dallas. If this nation is to continue to be the beacon of hope and justice and liberty in the world, we must not let this matter rest until all the questions are answered. To do anything less is to shame the memory of those who died so needlessly and to undermine the freedom for which they and the victims of 9/11 died.

As an ironic footnote, a character in a book by Martin Keating, the brother of the current governor, was named Tom McVey. The book, Final Jihad, which was purportedly penned in 1991 and subsequently published in 1996, depicts Islamic terrorists hijacking airliners and crashing them into important American landmarks. The book is available on Amazon.Com.

Times Article Viewed: 3667
Published: 01-Jun-2002

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