In a shocking moment of devastation and horror, millions of Americans were reminded that federal government employees, both civilian and military, are targets of terrorism, whether it is domestic or foreign.
Nearly 10 years ago, the lives of Oklahomans and people across the country were changed forever with the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. Since the tragedy, officials with the Oklahoma City National Memorial have worked diligently to educate, inform, and inspire hope and healing – which will culminate with special 10-year anniversary ceremonies throughout the week beginning Sunday, April 17.
A Decade of Hope will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the bombing. The National Week of Hope, April 17-24, will include a variety of events and ceremonies honoring “those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever” by the 1995 bombing.
One of the first events is Spreading Our Branches, where seedlings from the Survivor Tree will be planted in every Oklahoma community that lost a citizen on April 19th, 1995.
“We felt very strongly that planting a seedling from the Survivor Tree, which has become such a symbol of strength, would demonstrate the importance of the second decade,” said Kari Watkins, executive director, Oklahoma City National Memorial. The plantings, which began April 1 in Amber and Chickasha, Okla., will conclude April 19 in Oklahoma City.
A public lecture, in conjunction with the INTEGRIS James L. Hall Jr. Center for Mind, Body, and Spirit, OCU Distinguished Speaker Series, Oklahoma City Community Foundation and the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City will be given today, Wednesday, April 13 at the Oklahoma City University Freede Activity Center. Rabbi Harold Kushner, best selling author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, will be the featured speaker. Rabbi Kushner was in Oklahoma City following the bombing 10 years ago to meet with family members and survivors.
Religious congregations throughout Oklahoma City will be asked to recognize hope and healing on Sunday, April 17 – A Day of Faith. At 2 p.m., Yom HaShoah, the Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony, “Fighting the Fires of Hate,” will be held at the Memorial, sponsored by the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City. At 7 p.m., a candlelight ceremony led by author Max Lucado with music by Sandi Patty and Clay Crosse will symbolize the healing over the past decade. The service will also recognize the dozens of clergy and chaplains who assisted during the events of 10 years ago.
On Monday, April 18 – A Day of Understanding, a national media symposium will be address the impact of terrorism over the past 10 years. Members of the national media who reported the story of the bombing will discuss how terrorism has impacted countless lives, beginning with the Oklahoma City experience. A luncheon will feature native Oklahoman and 2004 Pulitzer Prize winner Anthony Shadid who will offer his unique “Pulitzer’s Perspective” on terrorism at home and abroad. A panel of local media including Linda Cavanaugh, Terri Watkins, Kelly Ogle, Sue Hale, David Page and Jerry Bohnen, will also be a part of the luncheon. On the evening of April 18, “NBC Nightly News” Anchor and Managing Editor Brian Williams will use the Memorial as the backdrop for his live newscast and will then meet with Oklahomans at an evening reception and keynote the symposium in the Bank One Lobby.
A Day of Remembrance will be held on April 19 when 168 seconds of silence will be observed along with the reading of the names of those who were killed. The ceremony, which will begin at 9 a.m., will also recognize the survivors of the bombing and their journeys over the past 10 years. Following the ceremony, families, survivors, and rescue workers will join together for a reunion and lunch in Bricktown. The Memorial’s newest exhibit Changed Forever-Forever Changing, opens on April 19. Celebrating Oklahoma’s strength and spirit, the exhibit tells stories of life moving forward and resilience. The day will be capped off with the announcement of the inaugural Reflections of Hope Award™ during an evening dinner. The award honors a living person or group whose extraordinary work has significantly impacted a community, state, or nation and exemplifies that hope not only survives but also thrives in the wake of political violence.
Other events during the National Week of Hope include A Day of Sharing on Wednesday, April 20 where family members, survivors, and rescue workers will participate in the First Person educational program in schools across the state.
“This program will give Oklahoma students the chance to hear the incredible stories of hope and survival first-hand while learning about the impact of violence,” said Watkins. Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace Prize winner, will be the featured speaker on Wednesday evening in a collaborative project with the Oklahoma City University Distinguished Speaker Series and the Jewish Federation of Greater Oklahoma City. The noted author and lecturer will speak at OCU’s Freede Center at 8 p.m.
In addition, A Day of Tolerance on Thursday, April 21 will offer 15 Oklahoma schools the opportunity to participate in the Memorial’s first simulated Model United Nations Security Council.
The interactive program will give students the opportunity to work through a potentially volatile situation and find non-violent resolutions. This event will be held at the Burg Auditorium in the Kirkpatrick Fine Arts Center at Oklahoma City University.
On Friday, April 22 A Day of Caring will showcase new and familiar Oklahoma recording artists at a special Memorial Thank You Concert for the people of Oklahoma. The 7 p.m. concert will be held at the Ford Center in downtown Oklahoma City. Vince Gill, Toby Keith, Ty England, Joe Diffie Katrina Elam, Jimmy Webb and Byron Berline will join the best from Centennial Rodeo Opry.
The week will begin to wind down with A Day of Inspiration on Saturday, April 23 where families, survivors, and rescue workers can greet 7,000 runners from across the country that have come to Oklahoma City to participate in the Fifth Annual Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. The Pasta Party dinner will begin at 4 p.m. on the GSA Plaza overlooking the Memorial. The Marathon will begin on Sunday, April 24 on Robinson between Fifth and Sixth streets and weave throughout Oklahoma City with a Run to Remember.
“It is our hope that people who have never visited the Memorial will take this opportunity to experience Oklahoma at its best. Likewise, we invite those who were a part of the recovery and rebuilding efforts to return to Oklahoma City in April to experience just how far we have come,” added Watkins.