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Two Horrors, A Common Bond

The quiet lasted 168 seconds — one tick of the clock for each person who died in the Oklahoma City bombing.

Seven years have now passed since the Alfred P. Murrah federal building exploded on an April morning. For survivors and victims' family members coming to mark the anniversary Friday, the silence was part of a subdued ceremony near an elm tree that survived the April 19, 1995 blast.

"On this seventh anniversary of one of the greatest tragedies in our nation's history, we pray for the continued healing of this great city," said pastor Richard Del Rio of New York.

"Time has passed, but the pain is still evident for some of those who survived."

Linda Lambert, chairwoman of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Trust, said those affected by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks will come to know what those here have already learned.

"While we never get over these tragedies, we do get through them," she said.

Bob Bender, the chief executive officer of the Greater New York chapter of the American Red Cross, stressed the similarity between the two tragedies.

"The only difference between New York and here is the scale," he said. "The events are exactly alike, exactly alike."

He said that the thousands of Teddy bears sent by Oklahomans to New York became a symbol of the empathy the nation felt for those touched by Sept. 11 attacks.

"We had the Teddy bears in our family assistance center, we lined the walls with them and those Teddy bears really had a significant meaning," he said.

The stuffed animals were put in cots used by rescuers.

"It was surprising how these big burly guys and gals went to sleep with their Teddy bears," he said.

Gov. Frank Keating said the Oklahoma City bombing and the Sept. 11 attacks leave a never-ending pain.

"This place seven years ago was indeed a place of unspeakable pain and agony," he said. "The pain and agony has not completely abated and the pain and agony will never completely diminish nor should it."

Bombing survivor Vicki Hamm, who attended the ceremony, said she still experiences deep emotions whenever she visits the memorial.

"It is a little easier, but it's still hard," said Vicki Hamm, a bombing survivor. "My knees get weak because these feelings come back. The bombing is something I will live with for always. I try to accept that. I don't want to forget it."

Some victims of the bombing have developed deep friendships with families of the Sept. 11 dead.

Ken Thompson, whose mother died in the bombing, embraced Cathy Miller, who lost her father Sept. 11 when Miller arrived at the airport in Oklahoma City so she could attend the ceremony.

The two have talked almost daily since Miller e-mailed the Oklahoma City National Memorial two days after her father was killed.

"It's overwhelming, but it feels good to be here," Miller said.

Susan Walton arrived Friday to mark a day she's grateful not to remember. Walton was making a deposit at the credit union on the third floor of the Murrah building at the time of the explosion. She has had 26 surgeries to repair her injuries, and will have more.

"I consider myself lucky because I have no memory of that day," she said.

It's been an eventful year for bombing survivors and families of victims.

In June, 232 watched a closed-circuit broadcast and 10 watched in person as Timothy McVeigh was put to death in a federal prison in Indiana. Then the new Oklahoma County district attorney announced he would prosecute co-conspirator Terry Nichols, already serving a federal life prison sentence, on state murder charges that could bring the death penalty.

On Sept. 11, many bombing victims relived their own tragedy. They sent teddy bears to New York. Some flew there to hold the hands of victims' families as they visited the World Trade Center site.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial has created an exhibit focusing on the shared experiences of terrorist victims in Oklahoma City, New York, Washington and Shanksville, Pa. The exhibit, which opened Friday, includes photographs and artifacts from the four cities, as well as information about nine rescue workers killed at the trade center who helped rescue Oklahoma City victims.

The wife and 7-year-old son of William Lake, one of the rescuers, planned to attend a special preview of the exhibit.

"I am a little nervous about looking at the photographs," Dorothy Lake said. "It's going to be painful."

By Jennifer Brown

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