Humble Items Left At Bomb Site Saved For Permanent Memorial
Dec. 23, 1995
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ The teddy bears, crosses and impromptu notes left as humble tributes to the federal building bombing victims have been taken away, placed in storage until a permanent memorial can be built.
Only a few Christmas wreaths, withered flowers and faded ribbons still hang on the chain-link fence surrounding the empty space once occupied by the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, pulverized by a bomb that killed 169 people.
And the remaining tattered remembrances will be coming down soon.
``This was really pretty last week,'' one woman said recently as she showed the site to an out-of-town relative.
A new wreath was attached to the chain-link fence last week, and blowing snow melted on a laminated card that read: ``Merry Christmas, Baylee, and to all who died. My prayers are with you all.''
Baylee Almon turned 1 on April 18, the day before the bomb killed her and the other victims. A photograph of her limp, bloodied body in the arms of a stunned rescue worker carrying her from the rubble appeared on newspaper front pages around the nation.
Through the spring and summer, thousands flocked to the downtown site to mourn the victims and to watch workers clear away the wreckage of the nine-story building.
Their cars bore license plates from as far away as Florida and British Columbia. Their voices carried accents ranging from the gentle drawl of the deep South to the staccato rhythms of Japanese.
Just before the ravaged hulk of the building was demolished on May 23, brought down by a carefully planned set of blasts, crowds at the fence for one last look were 10- and 15-deep. Many people brought their children to see the site of the attack.
The site became a tourist attraction that lured some people hundreds of miles off planned vacation itineraries. When lush new sod covered the emptied lot, the fence itself became an attraction, its makeshift exhibits changing every day.
Tokens left by visitors ranged from the prosaic to the bizarre. The fence bore teddy bears, flags, T-shirts, flowers, crude crosses made of sticks, business cards and written testimonials both formal and impromptu. One visitor tied a baby's diaper to the fence, possibly in memory of the infants who died in the building's second-floor day-care center.
Now the small remembrances wait for the Murrah Memorial Task Force to organize them for a rotating exhibit at a blast memorial, which is still in the planning stages.
The diaper remains on the fence. But most of the remainder is in a closet at the office of Kathy Wyche of the General Services Administration, which is in charge of federal buildings.
The closet is only temporary storage.
``We are making arrangements for space in a warehouse with climate control. We are concerned about things deteriorating,'' Ms. Wyche said.
``The archives committee of the task force will classify them and archive them until we have a memorial concept,'' she added.
Ms. Wyche said the material was removed because visitors to the fence were removing things, and because the GSA is considering a change in the way that the public is kept off the building site. She wouldn't elaborate.
After the holidays, she said, even the Christmas decorations will come off the fence.