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Survivors, Families Remember, Honor Victims at Anniversary of the Murrah Bombing

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The north side of the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, April 19, 1995. (AP Photo) The north side of the Alfred Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Wednesday, April 19, 1995. (AP Photo)
The reflecting pool at the Oklahoma City National Memorial is seen in Oklahoma City, Ok., Tuesday, March 16, 2010. The memorial honors the 168 victims of the April 19, 1995 truck bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. (AP Photo) The reflecting pool at the Oklahoma City National Memorial is seen in Oklahoma City, Ok., Tuesday, March 16, 2010. The memorial honors the 168 victims of the April 19, 1995 truck bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. (AP Photo)

Staff and Wire Reports

OKLAHOMA CITY -- U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told survivors and victims' relatives gathered Monday for a somber ceremony to mark the 15th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing that the city's spirit in the wake of the tragedy served as an example to the nation.

"Resilience is a pillar of our security and there has never been a better example of that than right here in Oklahoma City," said U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano.

Napolitano also warned of the need for continued vigilance against terrorists when she spoke during the 90-minute memorial to the 168 lives lost in the destruction of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995. More than 600 others were injured in the blast, which at the time was the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

Across Oklahoma City, people observed 168 seconds of silence to honor the dead.

Some dabbed away tears as the ceremony closed with family members reading a roll call of those who died.

"What defines us as a nation, as a people and as communities is not what we have suffered, but how we have risen above it, how we've overcome," Napolitano said. "We can resolve that the Oklahoma Standard becomes the national standard."

The ceremony followed a time-honored script. Shortly before 9:02 a.m. -- when the bombing occurred -- bells tolled in downtown Oklahoma City. Some family members visited the site of the federal building razed in the attack and left ribbons, wreaths and other objects on chairs that stand on the site to honor the dead.

For the family of LaKesha Levy, they traveled all the way from New Orleans. More than thirty loved ones, all wearing matching t-shirts, gathered around her chair, passing around the boot she was wearing when the bomb went off.

"We keep it at home...I look at it every day and it's just special to all of us," said LaKesha's son Corey Levy.

Corey Levy was just two-years-old when he lost his mother. He has no memories of her, except for what his family has told him.

"That she was a happy person. She never let stuff bring her down. She always smiled, like me," Corey said.

He also got to read his mother's name during Monday's ceremony and Corey said that was an honor.

After the ceremony, family members and survivors gathered again on the building's footprint. Nearby an American Elm, known as the "Survivor Tree" because it survived the blast, bloomed a brilliant shade of green.

Most of those in attendance sat quietly in a grassy area near the Survivor Tree and a reflecting pool, politely applauding the speakers, including Gov. Brad Henry and former Gov. Frank Keating, who was in office when the blast occurred.

Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said the city remembered the day of the bombing with reverence, "not because we can't forget but because we choose to remember.

"We have chosen strength, we have chosen optimism, we have chosen freedom, we have chosen to move forward together with a level of unity that is unmatched in any American city," Cornett said at the ceremony, held on a cool, overcast morning.

Attending the ceremony was Charlie Hangar, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper who stopped bomber Timothy McVeigh on Interstate 35 the day of the blast because his 1977 Mercury Marquis did not have a license plate. Hangar, now the Noble County Sheriff, read the memorial's mission statement at the start of the service. U.S. Rep. Mary Fallin, R-Okla., who was the state's lieutenant governor at the time of the bombing, read a congressional resolution commemorating the anniversary.

Napoilitano said the bombing anniversary was a reminder of "the continued need for vigilance against the violent ideologies that led to this attack, so that we can recognize their signs in our communities and stand together to defeat them."

In a documentary, "The McVeigh Tapes: Confessions of an American Terrorist," to be aired Monday on MSNBC, recordings of interviews with the convicted bomber indicate he had no remorse for those whose lives he had destroyed.

"Throughout the history of mankind, people have killed for what they believed was the greater good and ... and it's accepted. Sometimes killing is accepted," McVeigh told journalists Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck in comments posted on the MSNBC Web site.

Prosecutors had said McVeigh's plot was an attempt to avenge the deaths of about 80 people in the government siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, exactly two years earlier.

McVeigh was convicted on federal murder charges and executed in 2001. McVeigh's Army buddy, Terry Nichols, was convicted on federal and state bombing-related charges and is serving multiple life sentences at a federal prison in Colorado.

Fifteen Years: A Living Timeline
The bombing of Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building changed our city and nation forever. Experience the events of April 19, 1995, and the fifteen years since that fateful day. >>View the Timeline

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