Search for Bodies Ends With 167 Dead, Including 2 Missing
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Christi Rosas had worked there just eight days. Virginia Thompson had started in January.
One of them was at her desk, the other probably standing at a file cabinet when the bomb went off.
Now, both lie entombed under a jumble of huge concrete chunks, the only two victims of the Oklahoma bombing that rescuers couldn’t reach.
``They found all of my girls but two,″ said Florence Rogers, their boss at the Federal Employees Credit Union, one of the offices devastated in the bombing of the federal building here.
After 16 heartbreaking days, search efforts were called off Friday for fear part of the building would fall down on rescuers’ heads.
``To the best of our ability, we have tried to turn over every stone we possibly could that the structure would allow us to turn over,″ said Assistant Fire Chief Jon Hansen.
Meanwhile, The Dallas Morning News, citing unidentified sources, reported Saturday that Terry Nichols will soon be charged with complicity in the bombing. Nichols met bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh in the Army.
Agents are analyzing blue paint chips found at a campsite 15 miles from Nichols’ home in Herington, Kan., to see if they match the paint on his blue pickup, the newspaper said.
The sources told the newspaper that some of the land at the lake site was burned by kerosene, a possible ingredient in the fuel-and-fertilizer bomb.
The final death toll from the worst terrorist act on U.S. soil is almost certain to be 167, including a nurse killed in the rescue and Rosas, 22, and Thompson, 56.
As families gathered to hear the final, painful news, medical examiner’s spokesman Ray Blakeney said just one hope remained for recovering Rosas and Thompson: The FBI will mark the spot where they lay by spraying the concrete with fluorescent paint.
Then, when the building is demolished and the threat of collapse gone, rescuers can make one last try.
Based on interviews with the two women’s co-workers, ``We have a very good idea of where we think they are,″ Blakeney said.
In the credit union’s temporary, donated office space across town late Friday, Rogers was ordering funeral wreaths. Eighteen of 29 employees were in the office when the bomb went off. All 18 were women, and Rogers herself barely escaped. She regained consciousness after the blast resting on an 18-inch wide ledge that was all that remained of her office.
``I’m not sure if it’s really hit me yet,″ she said.
Rosas, who was married and had a 4-year-old son, was working only her eighth day as a receptionist in the credit union’s loan office. ``She was really a cute girl, she just bubbled,″ Rogers said.
Thompson, who had three grown children, liked to work in her yard. ``She got up every morning and watched the sun come up,″ said Rogers, who had known her for 20 years.
Nineteen children also are among the dead.
``You wait and wait _ when it comes down to it, you don’t want to know,″ said Victor Eaves, the uncle of 8-month-old Tylor Eaves, who had been dropped off at the building’s day-care center a half-hour before the 4,800-pound truck bomb exploded April 19. The baby was pulled out of the rubble Thursday with three other infants.
As the FBI pressed on with its frustrating hunt for the suspect known as John Doe 2, workers who gave up their search at midnight Friday returned in the afternoon to pray and remember.
Bagpipers played ``Amazing Grace″ and a wreath was laid before the entrance to the shattered Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building during a service organized by firefighters for rescue workers and their families.
The workers, many in hard hats and dusty uniforms, were handed long-stemmed roses. They filed out as hundreds of people applauded solemnly for 10 minutes. Many of the workers kept their eyes downcast. Many cried.
Families of the victims planned to visit the building Saturday in a procession of private memorials that could last five hours.
Each family group is allowed to bring up to 60 relatives and friends, said Mary Arbuckle, a Red Cross spokeswoman. Each group, accompanied by clergy and counselors, will be escorted to the building and allowed 45 minutes to an hour to hold private remembrances, she said.
Each group will be allowed to take a piece of the building as a memento.
The FBI, which has been at the site combing debris for evidence, was expected to finish the task Saturday and hand over the building to the General Services Administration, said FBI spokesman Dan Vogel.
The GSA has yet to decide whether to rebuild at the site and how it will go about demolishing the building. Bringing down the building all at once with explosives would be quicker than using a wrecking ball, but some fear it could traumatize people all over again.
``I think the question is: Would that cause more conflict than leaving the building over a long period of time?″ said Allen Wright, an aide to Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla. ``Does that create more strain for the community because it is very much an open wound?″
Many in Oklahoma City want to replace the building with a memorial, and federal officials say they will consider the community’s wishes.
The FBI will send all evidence to a crime lab in Washington for use in the case against McVeigh. Vogel said tips coming in to the FBI hot line have slowed substantially from a week ago.
Rescue workers uncovered no remains believed to belong to John Doe 2, Blakeney said. There had been speculation that the man seen with McVeigh when he allegedly rented the Ryder truck used in the bombing died in the blast.
In a commencement address at Michigan State University, President Clinton lashed out at the extremist ``militia″ movement, calling those who advocate violence against federal workers ``un-American.″
``How dare you call yourselves patriots and heroes?″ he said. Clinton added: ``This is a very free country. Those of you in the militia movement have broader rights here than you would in any other country in the entire world.″
By late afternoon, all but four bodies recovered from the federal building had been identified, Blakeney said. Three of the unidentified victims were children and identification was difficult because of the lack of dental records, he said. DNA testing may be used, Blakeney said.
``The biggest sigh of relief went up when we found the last baby,″ said Gibbs Hammond, a chaplain with the Knoxville, Tenn., fire department.
The two credit union employees lie buried under huge chunks of concrete that are helping prop up a shaky pillar that in turn holds up that section of the building.
During the search, rescue workers looked for blood-soaked insulation to guide them to bodies. Some victims were driven through cinder-block walls by the blast, the Fire Department’s Hansen said.
_ Court records in Pensacola, Fla., show the FBI seized anti-government tracts and audio tapes in a pickup truck belonging to McVeigh’s sister, Jennifer, a Pendleton, N.Y., college student who was visiting the area April 23. Among items seized: Tapes titled ``Watch Out for Martial Law″ and ``Wake Up America,″ and a 5-inch piece of copper pipe a quarter-inch in diameter.
_ Investigators are questioning Nichols’ account of being called by McVeigh to pick him up in Oklahoma City on April 16. Federal sources who spoke on condition of anonymity said investigators believe Nichols and McVeigh drove separate vehicles to Oklahoma City the weekend before the bombing, then returned to Kansas together in Nichols’ vehicle. They believe such a trip would have enabled McVeigh to leave the getaway car behind.
_ The Buffalo (N.Y.) News reported that McVeigh wrote his sister warning her against using private telephones because ``because the G-Men are watching.″ The date of the letter was not disclosed.
_ The Green Berets revealed the reason McVeigh dropped out of training for the elite Army unit on the second day: The road march with a 45-pound rucksack was too arduous.
Lt. Col. Ken McGraw at Fort Bragg released the text of McVeigh’s statement: ``I am not physically ready and the rucksack march hurt more than it should.″