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Oklahoma City Six Years Later

Six years after a bomb ripped apart the heart of Oklahoma City, survivors and victims' families want peace.

Families of the 168 people killed in the Oklahoma City bombing marked the sixth anniversary of their deaths with a simple, 25-minute ceremony Thursday on the grounds where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood.

"Please join with us in observing the 168 seconds of silence. It will seem like an eternity, but each second represents one life," said Rowland Denman, Secretary of the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial Foundation.

The families stood among the field of empty chairs, one for each of the victims, as church bells chimed and nearly three minutes of silence elapsed. Then they sang "Let There Be Peace on Earth" and read the names of the 149 adults and 19 children killed on April 19, 1995.

The reading of the names lasted about 20 minutes, by far the longest part of the ceremony.

"Families and survivors just wanted to have a low-key, simple ceremony," said Kari Watkins, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City National Memorial Center. "Other years we've had a groundbreaking or been under construction. Now things are done."

Hundreds of people, including President Clinton, attended the fifth anniversary ceremony last year, when the memorial on the bombing site opened. Two months ago, President Bush dedicated a museum on the memorial grounds.

In 1997, a 90-minute ceremony included a speech from actor Gerald McRaney and songs from country singer Randy Travis.

Gov. Frank Keating spoke on the second anniversary. On the first anniversary, Vice President Al Gore came to a downtown arena. Motorists on nearby highways pulled over, their headlights on in remembrance. A flyover of four fighter jets and the tolling of a bell in a bomb-damaged church signaled the end of 168 seconds of silence.

In honor of the anniversary, the center unveiled a new watercolor by Oklahoma artist Greg Burns. The painting shows the 168 empty chairs, as well as the survivor tree, reflecting pool and one of two bronze gates that symbolically preserve the moment of the explosion, 9:02 a.m.

The painting, called "The Memorial," is a companion piece to Burns' "The Fence," a watercolor of the chain-link fence that once surrounded the crumbled remains of the Murrah building.

Burns, 54, has a muscle and joint disease called Arthrogryposis that affects the movement of his arms and legs. He paints by holding his brush with his teeth.

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