April 19th, 1995 is a day Oklahomans will never forget.
The Sooner State was the epicenter of national news that fateful day after 168 people were killed and hundreds more injured during the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.
Twenty-five years later, the images and memories of that day are still very vivid for many Oklahomans, thanks in large part to the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.
An annual Remembrance Ceremony is held every April 19th “to remember those who were killed, honor those who survived and those changed forever.”
“People’s memories are short and that is why this sacred site is important,” said Kari Watkins, Executive Director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. “The memorial and museum causes you to have to remember. It is very powerful and it forces us to remember as we educate future generations.”
Big things were planned for this year’s 25th annual ceremony, but the COVID-19 outbreak forced city and memorial officials to change plans. Instead of thousands converging on downtown Oklahoma City to witness the event, a pre-recorded program will now take its place.
“COVID-19 has pushed us from a live event to a broadcast event,” explained Watkins. “We’ve produced an hour long ceremony that’s very powerful. It takes us back to 1995 and allows us to remember and to honor.”
The special will air on TV stations (includes YurView Cox Channel 3 in Oklahoma) and other media outlets across the state on April 19th. It will begin at 9 am CST and include features with several state dignitaries, including Senator James Lankford, Governor Kevin Stitt and Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt.
The Most Rev. Michael Curry, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, will provide a religious message and Broadway star and Oklahoma native Kristin Chenoweth will close the show with a powerful tribute performance.
Two traditional parts of the program, the 168 seconds of silence and the reading of the names of the 168 victims, remain an integral part of the event.
“It’s going to be every bit as powerful of a ceremony,” promised Watkins. “In some ways it will be different because you’re sitting at home watching it, but you’ll see the beautiful sights and sounds of the Memorial and you’ll see their faces as you hear their names read.”
The Outdoor Symbolic Memorial was dedicated in 2000 and the Memorial Museum was dedicated in 2001. The Memorial and Museum, which have been closed to the public since March 14th, averages half a million visitors a year.
“We’re grateful to Cox to put this event in 30-plus different cities,” said Watkins. “It’s great to have a partner like Cox that’s willing to promote this and get the story out beyond Oklahoma.”
” I hope everyone will take an hour to remember,” added Watkins. It’s an opportunity for us to come together and look at the lessons learned and make the best of it.”