Oklahoma City bombing 25th anniversary scaled back over virus concerns

Next month's commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing has been changed from a live event to a pre-recorded program due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum will offer the recorded, one-hour television program at 9 a.m. April 19 to stations across the state. It will include the traditional reading of the names of the 168 people killed in the 1995 bombing and 168 seconds of silence.

"While this is a very tough decision, we're in a very tough time as a country," said Kari Watkins, executive director of the museum. "And so this is our part to stop the spread and to be smart about how many people can congregate on the site."

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The museum is looking at ways to allow families to decorate the Field of Empty Chairs -- 168 empty chairs hand-crafted from glass, bronze, and stone to represent those who lost their lives --  without having too many people on the site at one time as public health concerns have limited gatherings to no more than 10 people.

As of Sunday, the museum has been closed but its memorial grounds remained open, according to The Oklahoman.

“What breaks our hearts the most is that as the week has gone by, we know we can’t assemble the large crowds that normally come to this Remembrance Ceremony,” Watkins said. “That makes April 19th as we have known it impossible.”

Organizers spent months planning ways to remember the fallen, according to Oklahoma City's FOX 23. But like most of America, Oklahoma has seen plans changed dramatically in recent weeks over the virus.

A visitor sits next to the reflecting pool at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum in Oklahoma City, Okla., March 18, 2020. (Associated Press)

A visitor sits next to the reflecting pool at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum in Oklahoma City, Okla., March 18, 2020. (Associated Press)

The museum's local media partners have agreed to air the ceremony on their television stations, websites and social media networks.

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"As you can imagine, April 19, 2020, will not look like any other Remembrance Ceremony we have done in the past," the museum added.

Planned performances by the Oklahoma City Repertory Theatre, the Canterbury Voices of Oklahoma City, and an Oklahoma City Ballet performance of a ballet choreographed to songs by country singer Vince Gill, have all been postponed.

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The Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon is also postponed until the fall, according to the museum.

The museum and memorial grounds are located at the site of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, where a truck bombing also wounded nearly 700 people as it destroyed one-third of the structure.

One man convicted in the bombing was executed June 11, 2001, while another was sentenced to life in prison without parole. A third defendant was released from prison in 2006 after serving 11 years behind bars for his role.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.