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                     Office of the Press Secretary
                       (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma)
For Immediate Release                                      April 5, 1996     
                        REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT
                           AND THE FIRST LADY
                     TO THE FAMILIES OF THE VICTIMS
                      OF THE OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING
                        Myriad Convention Center
                        Oklahoma City, Oklahoma                        

1:20 P.M. CST

MRS. CLINTON: Thank you, Reverend Alexander. Thank all of you for gathering here today as we commemorate and remember what happened nearly a year ago, when our American family was devastated by the bombing of the Federal Building here in Oklahoma City.

The grief that struck all of you, the families of the 168 men, women and children who were killed, the families of survivors, the survivors themselves -- we around the United States felt enveloped in your tragedy on that day, and we have followed with our hearts what has occurred in this last year. We have seen here in Oklahoma City the courage, compassion, resilience and faith of the people here, supported by Americans everywhere.

We know of the courage and tireless efforts of doctors and nurses and paramedics and rescue workers, who came from all over this city and state and from around our country. We know of the compassion and resources given by the tens of thousands of Americans who sent donations and prayers to you and the citizens of this city.

But most of all, we know of the resilience of the people of Oklahoma City and of the resilience of the families here today, working to rebuild the spirit and hopes not only of an entire community, but of all who were touched directly by that evil tragedy.

And most importantly of all, we have seen the faith of men and women and boys and girls who refused to give in to bitterness and hatred; who, even in the face of horrible loss and tragedy, believed in the fundamental goodness of people and in the capacity of the human spirit to forgive.

No words can ever do justice to what has happened here or to what has been accomplished in the thousands upon thousands of individual struggles and challenges you have faced. But I hope you know that across our country, particularly in the next days, Americans are looking to you, to the families gathered here, as a testament to the strength of the human spirit, and to our common humanity.

A few minutes ago the President and I were present when a new child care center for the downtown area was dedicated. And I sat there on the platform, looking at the destruction that still existed around me and I could not help but think that just two weeks ago, when I was privileged to visit with our troops in Bosnia, I flew over land that had been ravaged by hatred and violence and war, and I saw houses and buildings that bore the same marks of evil and the destruction that had been wrought.

We don't know how well the people there will be able to overcome their own legacy of bitterness and hatred and violence. But we do know that here in Oklahoma City, the buildings may still stand half destroyed, but the spirits are springing forth. And we know that the kind of love and faithfulness and reconciliation that you exhibit here toward one another is the most important gift we can give ourselves or our children. And the American spirit and the American community that has been with you throughout this ordeal will stay behind you and by your side as you continue to rebuild.

The President and I are honored to be here for this day of remembrance, but we are also honored to pay tribute to all of you who, every day, are living with your own memories, but moving forward into the future. On this Good Friday, God's blessings on all of us, God's blessings on this community. And as we look toward Sunday and Easter, God's blessings on the future of every family here.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

REVEREND ALEXANDER: I was asked initially to keep my opening remarks to under three minutes -- that's like asking a preacher to walk on water. (Laughter.) But I did it.

Now, what a privilege and honor it is to present to you the President of our great nation, President Bill Clinton. (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you so much, Reverend Alexander. Governor Keating, Mrs. Keating, Mr. Mayor, Senator Nickles, Lieutenant Governor Fallin, Congressman Brewster, Congressman Istook; most of all to the families here of those who lost their lives and those who survived the bombing almost a year ago.

I come here today as much as anything else to thank you. On this very difficult and painful day for me, when I have lost a great and good friend, and a lot of gifted employees of the federal government, some of them very young, and some wonderful members of our Armed Forces and some of our nation's most able business leaders, the power of your example is very much with me, and I thank you for that.

A year ago we were here to join in mourning your loss and praying for your healing. Today I ask that we not only remember your loss, but celebrate the rebuilding you have already done and the work you will still do.

I have relived the moments of last year many times in my mind since I was here with you. I have wondered how you were doing and prayed for your strength. I was honored to have two of yr citizens at the State of the Union address and to recognize their unique contributions to our country through their service to you.

Just a few moments ago I was honored to lay a wreath, along with the First Lady and some children who survived and their parents, and then to dedicate the child care center that will be built near the site of the bombing, thanks to the remarkable efforts of your public officials and private citizens together. You have shown how strong you are, and you have given us all an example of the power of faith and community, the power of both God's grace and human courage.

On this Good Friday, what you have done has demonstrated to a watching and often weary and cynical world that good can overcome evil, that love can outlast hate, that the light of human life can shine on through the most terrible darkness. And so I thank you for that. And I know that you could not have done it without your faith.

On this Friday I can't help noting that there is a wonderful verse in the Book of Matthew which says that a person who follows the word of God will be likened unto a wise man who built his house upon a rock. And the rains descended and the floods came and the winds blew and beat upon that house, and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock.

Well, your building was blown down and many lives were shattered. But today, I saw again that the spirit of Oklahoma City fell not, for it is founded upon a rock. And I thank you for showing that to America. (Applause.)

From the early rescue efforts that so many engaged in to the scholarship funds for the children who lost their parents, to the current outpouring of support that will enable families to travel to Denver for the trial, to the dedication ceremony I just attended, I see over and over and over again that you have redeemed the promise of essential human nature and human possibility that we celebrate so profoundly in this season. And what I want you to know is that, in doing that, you have renewed the faith of America. You have drawn our national family closer together.

A year ago I was able to come here and say to you that you have lost too much, but you have not lost everything. You have not lost America. (Applause.) In the year since, America has stood with you and prayed with you and worked with you as you rebuild. But today, I come today to say you have given America something precious -- a greater sense of our shared humanity, our common values, our obligations to one another. You've taken some of the meanness out of our national life and put a little more love and respect into it, in ways that you probably cannot even imagine. And I thank you for that. (Applause.)

I will call on all Americans to express their solidarity with you when you celebrate the first anniversary of your tragedy. Earlier today I signed a proclamation calling for a moment of silence across our land on April the 19th at 9:02 a.m., Central Daylight Time, to ask the American people to gather in silent prayer and quiet reflection with their friends and neighbors, wherever they live, from Maine to Alaska, to southern California, to Florida.

And let me say to all of you again, we will be there with you. But because of what you have felt and what you have endured, let me ask you now if you will bow your heads in silent prayer to remember all that this year has meant to you, and to pray for those who lost their loved ones on that plane in Bosnia. Only you can know how they feel.

May we pray.

(A moment of silence is observed).


I would like to say a special word now to some of the people who were involved here a year ago: To the federal workers who survived the blast and are back on the job, we're glad and we support you. To those who are not yet back on the job, we will stand with you until the day you are able to work again. To those who lost their lives in the service of their country, trying to help America get through every day in the best possible way, we thank you, your families, beyond measure.

Before Hillary and I left the White House this morning we planted a new Dogwood tree on the South Lawn to honor the memory of those who died in the crash in Bosnia. It is very near the one we planted a year ago, before we came to be with you for the first time, in honor of the loved ones that you lost. A year ago I noted that the Dogwood tree embodies the lesson of the Psalms, that the life of a good person is like a tree whose leaf does not wither; that just as a tree takes a long time to grow, sometimes wounds take a long time to heal. Well, your tree has taken root on the South Lawn of the White House. In a few weeks it will flower. The healing power of our faith has also taken root and must bloom again here.

You know, this Easter Sunday all over the world the over 1.5 billion people who are Christians will be able to bear witness to our faith that the miracles of Jesus and the miracles of the human spirit in Oklahoma City only reflect the larger miracle of human nature that there is something eternal within each of us, that we all have to die and that no bomb can blow away even from the littlest child that eternity which is within each of us. (Applause.)

I know a lot of you are still hurting, but I hope as Sunday comes you'll be able to find some comfort in that. Your healing has to go on. A lot of you probably still have your doubts about all of this. I'm sure there's some lingering anger, and even some rage and dark and lonely nights for many of the family members. I can only say to you that the older I get the more I know that we have to try harder to make the most of each day and accept the fact that things will happen we can never understand or justify.

We flew over my home state, you know, coming here, and it made me think of the words of an old Gospel song that were actually written in Arkansas. And I thought I would leave you with these words, and our love and respect, as we move towards Easter.

The hymn goes: "Further along we'll know all about it. Further along we'll understand why. Rise up, my brothers, and walk in the sunshine. Further along we'll understand why."

God bless you, and God bless America. (Applause.)

END 1:40 P.M. CST