OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) Offering a simple “God bless,” President Bush yesterday dedicated a museum devoted to the Oklahoma City bombing, recalling the horror of the deadliest terrorist attack on U.S. soil and the heroic response.
“The time for mourning may have passed, but the time for remembering never does,” Bush said before joining Gov. Frank Keating in the official opening of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Center.
The memorial is near the site where a powerful truck bomb sliced into the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in April 1995, killing 168 people, 19 of them children.
At an outdoor ceremony, Bush quoted St. Paul: “Be not overcome with evil, but overcome evil with good.” He said the memorial may not ease the pain of the bombing but it can encourage the nation to keep its obligation “to confront evil wherever and whenever it manifests itself.”
“Your loss was great and your pain was deep, but far greater and deeper was your care for one another,” Bush said. “That is what lasts.”
He said: “Oklahoma City will always be one of those places in our national memory where the worst and the best came to pass.” Bush toured the museum with his wife, Laura, and afterward they signed white tiles to be added to a guest registry on one wall. Bush signed his name and “God bless,” while the first lady wrote “With love” and her name.
The Bushes stopped first at a wall showing a montage of pictures from ordinary days at the building before the blast. They stood grim-faced before a gallery of photos and mementoes of the dead.
“This is my daughter here,” said tour guide Jeannine Gist, pointing to a picture of victim Karen Carr, displayed with one of Carr”s business cards and a snapshot of her car with a sign, “Please honk, it”s my birthday.”
“That was really a hard job, to pick out something that represented somebody”s life,” Gist told the Bushes, who nodded sympathetically.
Bush walked past pictures of Secret Service agents who died. “We knew some of the agents here,” Bush said, noting Alan G. Whicher, who had served on the elder President Bush”s detail.
Besides Gist, the Bushes were guided by Oklahoma City Police Maj. Ed Hill, a rescuer, and bombing survivor Richard Williams, a General Services Administration employee.
The center depicts the frenzied panic after the bomb exploded at 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, a short distance from the building”s day care center. Visitors can hear a tape recording of the blast, and see personal effects of the victims: car keys, watches, a brown leather briefcase, the pink-and-white sneaker of a 4-year-old girl, as well as window blinds, file cabinets and concrete mangled by the blast.
Gulf War veteran Timothy McVeigh, convicted in the attack, is scheduled to die by lethal injection May 16 in what would be the first federal execution in 37 years. He has halted his appeals.
Congress approved $5 million to create the museum. It will be maintained through endowments, membership dues and admission fees.
The visit set a somber start to a week that Bush otherwise is devoting to education and taxes.
Bush scheduled visits this week to Ohio, Missouri and Tennessee to lay the groundwork for budget and tax-cutting proposals he will present to Congress on Feb. 27.
Republican lawmakers warned last week that Bush”s $1.6 trillion tax-cut plan was in trouble. Polls suggest Americans favor tax cuts, but do not want the reductions to come at the expense of popular government actions, such as school dollars and reducing the debt.