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Wednesday, 19 April, 2000, 20:22 GMT 21:22 UK
Oklahoma remembers bombing
Couple in memorial park
A couple hug in Oklhoma City's "Field of chairs"
Oklahoma remembered on Wednesday the bomb blast at a government building that devastated the city and killed 168 people five years ago.

A crowd of 2,000 people - including hundreds of relatives of those killed, as well as survivors and rescue workers - gathered under grey skies at a newly-unveiled memorial park.

The site, where the Alfred P Murrah federal building once stood, is designed around a lone elm tree which survived the blast.


Man crying
A man fights back the tears during the ceremony to unveil the memorial park
A monument and 168 empty bronze chairs, each inscribed with the name of a victim, commemorates the victims, which included 19 children that were at the building's day-care centre.

Many of those attending the sombre ceremony piled flowers and American flags on the bronze chairs.

Some wept as victims' names were read out.

"In some ways it is not easy to turn this (site) over to the world. It is sacred to us, it is our holy ground," said the Oklahoma City National Memorial Trust chairman Robert Johnson.

The $2.9m memorial also includes a small museum.

Worst attack

The 19 April blast was the worst terrorist attack in the US and left the nation stunned.


children
Young children were among those injured and killed
More than 600 people were injured in the explosion, which also damaged another 25 buildings nearby and left a gaping crater in the street.

Nearby cars were also set alight and shattered glass was found on streets miles away.

Oklahoma City's district attorney Bob Macy said he was unable to wipe away mental images of the devastation caused by the bomb.

"When I look at the memorial, the first thing I do is have a flashback. All I see is burning cars exuding smoke and popping burning tires and smell the smoke and the stench," he said.

Timothy McVeigh was sentenced to death in 1997 for detonating the bomb made of fuel of fertilisers that was hidden in a truck.

His army colleague Terry Nichols was given life without parole for helping him plan the bombing.

Prosecutors said the pair were angry with the government, particularly over the incident involving the Branch Davidians near Waco, where federal troops stormed a building and 80 sect members died.

The Waco incident occurred exactly two years before the Oklahoma City bombing.

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See also:

12 Dec 99 | Americas
US warns of terror threat
08 Oct 99 | Americas
Oklahoma bomb figure re-sentenced
05 Jun 98 | Americas
Life sentence for Oklahoma bomber
20 Jun 98 | Americas
Jurors visit Oklahoma bombing site
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