One Year Later

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OKLAHOMA CITY: The chain link fence around the grassy field where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood is a monument to suffering great and small. Hundreds gathered here Friday for a memorial service one year to the day after the devastating blast killed 168 people in and around the building. Families wiped away tears, some smiling shyly at each other, as they observed 168 seconds of silence, a second for each of the 168 victims. Rescuers from around the nation, who came to help Oklahomans in the aftermath of the blast, joined the mourners today in an expression of grief and solidarity. President Clinton, in Russia on an official visit, observed a minute of silence in memory of the bombing victims. The names of the victims were read aloud in 10-second intervals as families laid wreaths and flowers around the fence surrounding the site. For Americans far from Oklahoma, the hole blown out of our sense of safety and stability last April 19 has mostly healed. But for those without the advantage of distance - for the families of the 168 people killed and the more than 600 injured - the balm of time hardly seems medicine enough. At heart many Oklahomans are struggling, both privately and publicly, with what it means to be a victim and what it means to survive. Whose names belong on the yet-to-be-designed memorial? "Clearly you can identify the 168 people who died," says Kim Jones-Shelton, chairwoman of the mayor's committee for families and survivors. "But how much injury makes you a survivor? I would venture to say that everyone in Oklahoma City heard the explosion that day and the whole city is still suffering from the devastation."