Oklahoma City marks 19th anniversary of bombing at memorial

By Silas Allen The Oklahoman

A woman places flowers and a stuffed animal on a chair before the start of the 19th anniversary Remembrance Ceremony at the Oklahoma City National Memorial Saturday morning, April 19, 2014, to honor the memory of the 168 victims killed in the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman

A woman places flowers and a stuffed animal on a chair before the start of the 19th anniversary Remembrance Ceremony at the Oklahoma City National Memorial Saturday morning, April 19, 2014, to honor the memory of the 168 victims killed in the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building. Photo by Jim Beckel, The Oklahoman

As she stood a few feet away from an empty chair bearing her mother’s name, Dion Thomas smiled when she thought about the kind of woman Charlotte Thomas was. Although 19 years have passed since she lost her mother, Dion Thomas said she still remembers her kindness and generosity.

“She was very giving, loving — just unconditional love,” Thomas said.

On April 19, 1995, Charlotte Thomas was a 17-year employee of the Social Security Administration. She was one of the 168 people left dead after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

On Saturday, Dion Thomas and her family gathered at the annual remembrance ceremony at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum. After the ceremony, the family walked through the Field of Empty Chairs, a collection of 168 bronze and glass chairs that bear the names of the people who died as a result of the blast.

Susan Winchester, chairwoman of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation, said many families spent Easter weekend in 1995 together, not knowing that those loved ones would be taken from them just a few days later.

“That day began very much like today, with the sun shining and people going about their lives,” Winchester said. “Then, at 9:02 a.m., our lives were forever changed.”

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