On a bright, sunny day, more than 1,000 people came together to remember those who were killed and those who survived 15 years after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Building.
The grounds of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum was a somber place as Oklahoma leaders remembered that day and urged Oklahomans to continue to remember and look to the future.
"Our city is certainly a changed place, in attitude and appearance, than it was prior to the bombing," said John Richels, Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation chairman. "During the last 15 years, we have worked together with common resolve to defeat the evil attack against us."
Discussing the change Oklahoma City has undergone since the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett, Republican, spoke about the choices Oklahomans have made since that day that has changed the city for the better.
"Our lives were changed forever. Ultimately, each of us, individually and collectively, has been faced with choices," Cornett said. "We have made our choices "¦ We have chosen strength, we have chosen optimism, we have chosen freedom and we have chosen to move forward together with a level of unity unmatched by any other American city."
In the aftermath of the Murrah bombing, the competency of the first responders and the spirit and courage Oklahomans exemplified that day became known as the "Oklahoma Standard" all over the country, said former Gov. Frank Keating, Republican.
"The 'Oklahoma Standard' is something hard to define "¦ but on April 19, 1995, it was established first and foremost as the standard of love and commitment and brotherhood," F. Keating said.
The "Oklahoma Standard" was in place for a long period of time but it was during the rescue and recovery that the "Oklahoma Standard" was first seen and experienced by people all over the world and that others were given a standard of measurement for all other acts of violence or responses to any other community disaster to be measured, former First Lady Cathy Keating said.
While the events of April 19, 1995, demonstrated evil, Oklahomans met tragedy with triumph, said Gov. Brad Henry, Democrat.
"The evil perpetrated here illustrated the depth of human depravity and yet what occurred here also came to illustrate the best of humanity, the love and compassion, the decency and generosity and warm-spirit of our people," Henry said. "The Oklahoma standard is not a past event, it is a part of the character and fabric of the people of this city and this state."
The ceremony was also a time of celebrating the passage of House Bill 2750 mandating the lessons of the bombing and its aftermath into Oklahoma history and U.S. history curriculum in all Oklahoma schools, effective July 1.
Working with the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum, the Oklahoma Legislature passed the bill without contest and the bill was signed April 6.
Introducing the new law, State Superintendent Sandy Garrett, Democrat, discussed the importance of why Oklahoma children should always learn about this event.
While many teachers already emphasize April 19, 1995 in their curriculum, Garrett said this will ensure all Oklahoma students will be educated about the events surrounding the Murrah bombing and the lessons learned from it. The museum is working to make new materials for teachers and technology to allow all students from across the state and the rest of the world to take a virtual tour of the museum.
While Oklahomans continue to remember April 15, 1995, U.S. Department of Homeland Security Sec. Janet Napolitano, Democrat, stressed the need to look forward and take steps to prevent acts of violence.
"Terrorism is a tactic designed, to not just kill, but to make us feel powerless. But we are never powerless, we control the way we prepare ourselves, the way we combat threats and the way we respond if something indeed happens," Napolitano said. "We remind ourselves what defines us as a nation, as a people, as communities is not what we have suffered but how we have risen above it, how we have overcome it."
photo People of all kinds came together for a ceremony at the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum. photo/Shannon Cornman