The Healing Process...A Ceremony For Oklahoma City Remains

Saturday, December 11th 1999, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

More than four years after the Oklahoma City bombing, survivors and members of victims' families gathered Saturday morning to remember the tragedy and bury common remains.

About 100 people turned out on a cold, gray morning as the unidentified fragments of the victims were interred on the grounds of the state Capitol.

"We will always miss them, because they would have been and were an integral part of our tomorrows," Gov. Frank Keating said.

The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April19, 1995, killed 168 people and injured hundreds of others.

"What we do here today is to remember the lives that are irreplaceable," said Oklahoma City police Chaplain Jack Poe, who officiated the 30-minute ceremony.

The remains have been stored in the medical examiner's office since the explosion. They included small fragments of tissue, bone and hair as well as a left leg that never has been identified. The limb was mistakenly buried with the remains of bombing victim Lakesha Levy, an Air Force airman. It was removed from her coffin in 1996 after another left leg was matched to her footprints.

Police motorcycles escorted a hearse carrying the casket of the remains. The casket was placed under a grove of 168 trees planted on the grounds in tribute to the victims and the state. The remains were to be buried at the top of a horseshoe formed by a brick sidewalk engraved with the names of the victims. Victims' relatives and survivors had wanted the remains buried at the bombing site, where work is under way to create a memorial due to open next year. However, National Park Service policy prohibits burials.

A flag presented to Keating will later be placed in the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial Museum, due to open downtown on April 19.

Timothy McVeigh was sentenced to death for first-degree murder and other crimes linked to the bombing after his federal conviction. His former Army buddy, Terry Nichols, was sentenced to life in prison after he was found guilty in a federal trial of involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy. He was acquitted of first- and second-degree murder but faces trial on state murder charges that carry a potential death penalty.