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Crews Clear Bombing Site in Preparation for Trackhoe

May 3, 1995

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Load by load, crews are removing the remains of federal business _ a jumble of rubble, office equipment and paper _ that sit between them and dozens of buried victims.

When that is cleared, heavy machinery will move in for the tough job: lifting debris from a precarious area known as ``the pit,″ where the remains of more than three dozen missing people are believed to be.

For many, realism has replaced hope over the past 48 hours as the rescue effort slowly became a salvage operation.

Authorities did not specify when they plan to abandon hand searches in the pit. But more debris must be removed before a rubble-extraction device known as a trackhoe can be brought in.

``Nobody wants to give up hope of finding somebody in there,″ said Jeff Bekeris, a rescue worker from Orange County, Calif.

From the vantage point of a helicopter flying overhead Tuesday, the blown-out hole in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building resembles a vast bite mark. Rescuers have adorned the building with flags _ American, Oklahoman and those of their organizations.

Engineers with laser scopes are poised to sound warning horns if debris removal causes the building to shift, Bekeris said. Searches have been suspended between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. for safety reasons.

Bekeris said rescuers are ``being very gentle and careful″ as they clear piles containing everything from file cabinets to business cards to family portraits. All rubble is scoured by the FBI after removal.

Jim Texter, whose wife, Victoria, is missing, concurred with the decision to bring in heavy machinery for the sake of rescuers’ safety.

``It’s inevitable, and I certainly understand it,″ he said. ``If they need to change the tactics ... then that’s what they should do.″

A few blocks from the building, a rescue worker helped erect a makeshift tent over the flowers, rosaries and stuffed animals left in memory of the victims.

Sgt. Larry Medina and his wife, Susan, are tending the impromptu memorial on a street corner as though it were a grave, retrieving notes and poems to have them laminated.

``Notes were blowing away and rain was washing away words,″ said Medina, a sergeant in the Oklahoma Air National Guard. ``We just don’t want the words to go away.″

The couple said they were moved to tears by one that said, ``Mom, I’m waiting to hear from you. Please come home. I love you.″

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