OKLAHOMA CITY – It's been 14 years since Doris Battle lost her parents in the Oklahoma City bombing. But Battle said Sunday that the passage of time has not diminished the loss she still feels.
"I can't go home and see him anymore," Battle said with a voice that quivered with emotion as she placed bouquets of flowers on two empty chairs that represent her parents, Calvin and Peola Battle, at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.
Doris Battle was one of about 400 people at a solemn ceremony to observe the 14th anniversary of the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building, an attack that killed 168 people, injured hundreds more and still ranks as the worst domestic terrorist attack in U.S. history.
Dr. Paul Heath, a retired psychologist with the Veterans Administration and a bombing survivor, placed flowers along a granite memorial to those who survived the attack.
"The memory of the bombing is just as clear today as it was the day after the bombing. The memories run just like a video in my head," Heath said.
A truck loaded with 4,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and fuel oil tore the face off the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, and also caused millions of dollars in damage to other structures in parts of downtown Oklahoma City.
Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were convicted of the bomb plot, which prosecutors said was a twisted attempt to avenge the deaths of about 80 people in the government siege at the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, exactly two years earlier.
McVeigh was convicted on federal murder charges and executed in 2001. Nichols is serving multiple life sentences on federal and state convictions.
The bombing memorial includes 168 empty chairs that symbolize the victims. The chairs are on a grassy field where the federal building once stood that now overlooks a reflecting pool flanked by bronze gates, one marked 9:01 a.m. and the other marked 9:03 a.m., framing the exact 9:02 a.m. time of the explosion.
Jerry Bowers and members of his family snapped photographs of a chair festooned with flowers that bears the name of his wife, Carol Louise Bowers, who was killed in the federal building's Social Security Administration office.
"Time helps, but it seems like yesterday," Jerry Bowers said. "It never goes away."
Nearby, retired Marine Staff Sgt. Ted Krey tied American flags to chairs that bear the names of Sgt. Benjamin LaRanzo Davis and Capt. Randolph A. Guzman, two fellow Marines who were killed in the federal building's Marine Corps recruiting office.
"They're fellow brothers. Marines are like that," said Krey, who worked at the site as part of a rescue team for two weeks after the bombing and was only a few feet away when rescuers pulled Guzman's body out of the rubble.
Richard Williams, assistant manager of he federal building at the time of the bombing, said it is important that survivors and victims' family members set aside the bombing's anniversary to remember those who were killed.
"We will always do this," said Williams, who was seriously injured in his first-floor office and was rescued by an Oklahoma City police officer. "We're going to do something every year."
Like many survivors and members of victims' families, Williams speaks to school groups and others about his experience and the importance of "good coming out of evil." He said he stresses the tireless efforts of law enforcement officials and volunteers who worked to rescue survivors and recover victims.
"I want us to think about them," he said.
Those who attended the anniversary ceremony wore heavy coats and jackets to protect them from a cold north wind that followed an early-morning rainstorm.
During the ceremony, the crowd observed 168 seconds of silence, one for each victim, and survivors and victims' family members read the names of each victim.
"We gather on a spot that has become holy ground," said the Rev. Tom Ogburn of First Baptist Church of Oklahoma City.
"In our faith we found hope. We were wounded but not broken."