At a memorial ceremony, OKC’s sinister link with Paris

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Philippe Etienne, Ambassador of France to the United States, discusses the program of the remembrance ceremony on Tuesday near the Reflecting Pool of the national memorial in Oklahoma City. He is accompanied by Grant Moak, honorary consul of France in Oklahoma City. Etienne spoke at the ceremony inside First Church. (Photo by Kathryn McNutt)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Hundreds of people gathered in downtown Oklahoma City on Tuesday to mark the terror and tenderness that occurred 27 years ago when a bomb ripped through the Murrah Federal Building.

The annual memorial service was held inside the First Church, where family members read the names of the 168 men, women and children who died on April 19, 1995. Afterwards the families were escorted from the church to Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum Park by the Oklahoma Fire Pipes and Drums playing “Scotland the Brave”.

Three generations gathered in the Field of Empty Chairs to decorate the chair honoring the life of Emilio Tapia and to take family photos.

“He didn’t come home that night,” his granddaughter Anna Tapia said. Papa Emilio was the caretaker for 5-year-old Anna and her two younger sisters while their parents worked. “I learned so much from him through my family.”

As April 19 approaches each year, Anna Tapia said she reflects on what might have happened if her grandfather had not died at 50.

“Many times I wish he was here,” she said.

A few chairs down the row, another large family gathered to honor the Reverend Gilbert X. Martinez, who accompanied Tapia—a church member—to the Social Security office that day to serve as a ‘interpreter.

“It’s heartwarming to have everyone together,” her daughter Michelle Talamantes said. After attending the ceremony, decorating the chair and taking pictures, it’s a family tradition to go to brunch and share stories of Martinez.

“He is still the loving and caring father that I have always remembered,” said Talamantes, who was 12 when he died and is now a mother of four.

Oklahoma City Mayor David Holt said the Oklahoma City National Memorial is a very personal place for many people, but also a symbol of what happens when humans are so divided they don’t see not others like humans too.

“In the face of violence and dehumanization, we did not abandon democracy, but redoubled our efforts,” Holt said.

Gov. Kevin Stitt said those who come to the memorial are bound to learn from the lessons learned. They can choose to be angry and bitter or come together with faith in each other and in God, he said.

“We stood together as a united front,” Stitt said.

Philippe Etienne, Ambassador of France to the United States, delivered the keynote address, calling it “a great honor to be your guest.”

“Paris and Oklahoma City have been hit very hard in their hearts,” Etienne said, promising France as an ally in the war on terror.

Like Oklahoma City, France plans to build a memorial museum that will aim to show how France and other countries affected by terrorism have responded to attacks over the past 50 years, with a focus on the resilience of their people. .

It will trace the evolution of terrorism through the ages, in particular the attacks on the offices of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the Bataclan concert hall in Paris which have shaken the country in recent years.

A decade of attacks has killed nearly 300 people – including dozens of children and teenagers – and injured nearly 1,000. French President Emmanuel Macron pledged in September 2018 to create the memorial museum which will should be inaugurated in the Paris region by 2027.

The names and photos of the 168 people killed 27 years ago in the Oklahoma City bombing are available at https://memorialmuseum.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/okcm-reading-of-the -168-names.pdf.

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