Survivors reminded of bombing through memorial, trial
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Nine years after a bomb destroyed the Oklahoma City federal building, Beverly Rankin is happy to make her weekly trips to the memorial that now sits in its place.
Rankin credits a colleague's phone call for saving her life by drawing her away from the blast that shook windows for miles and tore the face off the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building where she worked.
As she walks through a new exhibit of artwork recovered from the site after the blast, she's able to laugh as she remembers the jokes she shared with her co-workers about some of the pieces they didn't like so much.
``We weren't real complimentary,'' Rankin says with a smile.
But now, the sculptures, textiles and photographs remind her of the days she worked in the building and the people she encountered every day.
``It makes you think back to when everything was whole and pure, and our innocence was there,'' Rankin says.
The exhibit includes 23 of the 32 pieces that were dedicated after the building opened in 1978. The remaining nine pieces were lost in the bombing.
A government booklet shows pictures of some of the damaged items, including a bright yellow weaving of jute and guinea feathers mangled in the blast and an acrylic disk that was chipped into two pieces.
The disk, which Rankin and others used as a fish-eye lens looking out from the top floor of the nine-story building, remains in two pieces at the museum.
``I used to like to stand and look at downtown through it,'' Rankin says, ``and it was really neat.''
The items in the exhibit, which opens to the public Monday, aren't the only reminders of the bombing, which remains the deadliest act of domestic terrorism ever in the United States.
A two-hour drive away in McAlester, other memories are on display for survivors attending the state murder trial of bombing conspirator Terry Nichols.
After spending nearly four weeks concentrating on phone records and other documents, prosecutors have begun bringing out the more emotional pieces of evidence from the April 19, 1995, blast.
The first was a twisted and charred 250-pound, 7-foot-long Ryder truck axle that was blown from the truck that delivered the bomb and struck a car one block away.
Priscilla Salyers, a former U.S. Customs Service employee who worked on the fifth floor of the federal building, says she was moved by the physical evidence. Salyers was injured in the bombing and spent 4 1/2 hours in rubble before being rescued.
``Seeing the truck parts brought in, I realize that it's a miracle I'm here,'' Salyers says. ``It's a miracle more people weren't killed.''
The trial won't take a break Monday to observe the ninth anniversary of the bombing. FBI agent Steve Smith is expected to continue his testimony in the Pittsburg County Courthouse at 9 a.m. while a ceremony in Oklahoma City two minutes later will mark the exact time the bomb went off.
Names of the bombing victims will be read and a 168 seconds of silence will be observed _ one second for each of those who died.
Survivors and members of victims' families attending Nichols' trial plan a private observance of the anniversary at noon Monday at the First Baptist Church, located behind the courthouse.
Salyers, now an employee of the U.S. Secret Service, says she plans to return to Nichols' trial but will be in Oklahoma City for the ceremony.
``I'm going to go down to the site and pay respects to my friends,'' she says.
Rankin will be there, too. She says her memories don't keep her from her regular visits to the memorial, where she volunteers once a week.
``I feel like maybe I'm doing some good,'' Rankin says. ``I feel like I'm maybe showing the terrorists or whoever that they're not going to get us down, that we're going to persevere. Hopefully, we can teach children and their children that violence isn't the way to handle things.
``I feel like I am making a contribution.''
It's a little bit harder on days like Monday's anniversary, but Rankin says she and the other survivors do their best to cope.
``We still have our times like if the power goes off, then we really kind of get a little upset,'' she says. ``I guess it all takes us back.
``We just do the best we can and try to move along.''