Clinton remembers victims of Oklahoma City bombing President leaves wreath at site of Murrah building

April 06, 1996|By LOS ANGELES TIMES

OKLAHOMA CITY -- During a day filled with personal sorrow, public grief and religious reflection, President Clinton remembered the victims and survivors of the bombing here a year ago, offering comfort in the Good Friday celebration of rebirth and resurrection.

Aided by his wife, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and six children who lived through the deadly blast, Mr. Clinton arranged a huge wreath of seasonal flowers in the barren field where the Alfred P. Murrah federal center once stood.

The massive building was destroyed on April 19, 1995, when a truck bomb exploded, killing 168 people, including 18 children at a second-floor day-care center.

"On this Good Friday," he said in a speech to families of bomb victims, "what you have done has demonstrated to a watching and often weary and cynical world that good can overcome evil, that love can outlast hate."

As a mournful bagpipe rendition of "Amazing Grace" played, several family members of the bombing victims looked on with teary eyes as Mrs. Clinton held the hand of 4-year-old Brandon Denny, who survived the explosion, and bent down gently to leave a teddy bear in the center of the wreath. Each of the children then placed a single, red rose inside the wreath -- except 2-year-old Joseph Webber, who refused to let go of his flower.

"I know there is nothing that anyone can do to bring back the children whose lives were taken from us, nothing we can do to sweep away the frightening memories that still linger in the children who survived," Mr. Clinton said later in brief remarks to dedicate a plaque for a new child care center. "But what you have done is show our children that in the wake of evil, goodness can surround them and lift them up."

While the president proceeded solemnly through the day's observances in Oklahoma, he made no effort to hide his mourning for Commerce Secretary Ron Brown and 34 others who died Wednesday in a plane crash in Croatia. Aides said Mr. Clinton and Vice President Al Gore planned to lead a delegation that includes the family members of the crash victims to Dover Air Force in Delaware today to observe the return of the crash victims' remains.

Before leaving Washington yesterday, Mr. Clinton planted a dogwood tree on the White House South Lawn as a living memorial to Mr. Brown and those who died with him. A year ago, Mr. Clinton planted a similar tree nearby in memory of the Oklahoma City bombing victims.

Mr. Clinton told an estimated 4,000 people assembled at the Myriad Convention Center for an afternoon address, "I have lost a great and good friend and a lot of gifted employees of the federal government."

Mr. Clinton also declared April 19 as a National Day of Remembrance and requested Americans observe a moment of silence at 10: 02 a.m. EDT that day to mark the moment of the Oklahoma City explosion.

Later in the day, Mr. Clinton was to deliver a speech at the University of Central Oklahoma, where he was expected to renew his demand for the anti-terrorism legislation he asked for shortly after the Oklahoma City explosion.

Pub Date: 4/06/96

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