Former President Bill Clinton Sunday paid tribute to the 168 victims, 19 of them young children, who lost their lives 20 years ago in the Oklahoma City bombing as well as to the survivors who redeemed "your terrible losses." Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett characterized April 19, 1995, as "60 minutes of terror" followed by "our finest hour."
“I prepared for this day yesterday [Saturday], in New York, by taking Hillary to see our daughter and son-in-law and my about-to-be 7-month-old grandchild,” Clinton said. “And Hillary and I bathed her and fed her and put her to bed, and I looked at her in that crib so I could remember how you felt, those of you who lost your loved ones.”
The former president was joined on stage by a handful of current and former Oklahoma City mayors and governors, as well as James Comey, director of the FBI, and Jeh Johnson, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.
"It was 60 minutes of terror," Cornett said. "But our finest hour has lasted 20 years. This city has progressed in a manner that none of us could have foreseen."
Clinton echoed the mayor’s sentiments, saying the people of Oklahoma embodied a spirit of resolve and resilience.
“By just living by the Oklahoma Standard, you grew faster than ever before and grew far more prosperous,” he said. "Oklahoma City, you had to choose to redeem your terrible losses by having to begin again." You can watch his full speech here.
The bomb was set off inside a truck packed with explosives. The truck was parked in a loading zone in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, which included a daycare center, by Timothy McVeigh, who told investigators the attack was in retaliation for the 1993 FBI standoff with the Branch Davidian Church in Waco, Texas, where 80 members of the religious sect were killed.
Comey spoke of the "dark and damaging moments in our history" like the Oklahoma City bombing, which was the deadliest terror attack on U.S. soil until Sept. 11, 2001.
“You were strong,” Comey said. “You were unbending. You were fearless in the face of terrible hatred. You understood, even in the midst of evil, that courage is stronger than fear. Love is stronger than hatred. And hope is stronger than grief.”
He added: "For 20 years, you have sought the good coming out of the darkness. It is your way of saying: 'We remember. We will never forget. But we will move bravely forward.'"
President Obama issued a statement from the White House, saying Americans "will never forget the men and women who lost their lives in the bombing that day. The passing of time will never extinguish the pain we feel. But if those murderers hoped to terrorize the American people that day, to break our spirits or shatter the bonds that unite us, then they completely and utterly failed."