Beliefnet

OKLAHOMA CITY, April 19 (AP)--The stone chairs at the new Oklahoma City National Memorial stand in rows like tombstones, marking the place where 168 people died five years ago. Today, it is a site for people to gather and remember.

There are big chairs for adults and 19 little ones for children. All sit empty on glass bases over the green lawn once occupied by the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Each chair bears the name of a victim.

Jeannine Gist needs no reminder of the empty chair at her own dinner table. But on the anniversary of the April 19, 1995, bombing, these chairs bring her peace.

``When we first talked about building the memorial, I couldn't imagine it could be a peaceful place,'' said Gist, whose 32-year-old daughter, Karen Carr, worked and died in the federal building.

Hundreds of family members, rescuers and survivors bearing bouquets and wreaths trekked to the site Wednesday for a private dedication of the $29.1 million memorial. The state Legislature on Tuesday approved the final $2.3 million needed to finish paying for the tribute.

President Clinton and Attorney General Janet Reno appeared at a public ceremony later.

Robert Roddy, who managed to escape the ninth floor of the building down a stairway, came looking this morning for a memorial that was ``spiritual, calming and fitting.'' His name is among those of survivors listed on a cracked and damaged part of the former federal building's foundation.

``I was worried this might be a little too many bells and whistles, but it looks like it's come together real nice,'' he said. ``I was anxious to come in, walk the grounds, see my name and imagine my children and grandchildren walking here someday.''

The site of the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil is a picture of serenity now.

Where a bomb once blasted a crater into the downtown street, a black granite pool reflects the downtown sky. Grass and trees stand where rescuers scoured a three-story high pile of concrete and glass for victims. An elm tree whose branches bore the impact of the blast unfolds in a display of green.

Just blocks away, one of the two men convicted in federal court in the attack sits in an Oklahoma County Jail cell.

Bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, who was sentenced to life in prison, is awaiting a preliminary hearing on 160 state counts of first-degree murder. Timothy McVeigh, who was convicted and sentenced to death, is in a federal prison in Indiana.

Across from the memorial, at the gutted shell of what was the Journal Record newspaper building, a museum is being constructed where visitors will be able to hear the bomb blast and learn more about the victims. The museum is scheduled to open in November.

The story will be told simply, without drama, museum director Sunni Mercer said, pointing to one example--a box holding keys plucked from the crumbled federal building.

Piles of these unclaimed house keys, locker keys, gate keys will be on display, all speaking to the normal lives changed by an act of terrorism.

Gist, who helped plan the museum, wants visitors to know who her daughter was and wants them to be changed, too.

``I'd like them to leave thinking `If there is anything I can do to make sure this never happens again, I will do it,''' she said.




Copyright 2000 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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