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20 years after Oklahoma City bombing, remembering the effort to remember victims

It was a national day of mourning 20 years ago, and metro-east residents were coming to grips with how fellow Americans could explode a bomb and kill 168 people.

April 23, 1995, was the Sunday after the Oklahoma City bombing. The remains of Dorothy Stratton, 51, whose family lived in the metro-east, had just been found that Thursday in the rubble of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building where she worked.

Local florists prepared for the day by making small blue lapel ribbons. Churches handed them out to congregation members that Sunday to show support for the victims and survivors of the bombing.

The Rev. Elliot Blackburn at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Belleville described how the explosion moved the Oklahoma City Episcopal Cathedral an inch off its foundation and smashed most of its windows. Two valuable Tiffany windows near the altar were spared, and the church became a gathering place for those seeking help or awaiting word on their loved ones’ fates.

It foreshadowed the role St. Paul’s Chapel in New York City would play as a place of refuge for those escaping the World Trade Center dust cloud during the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, and later for weary emergency workers.

The Rev. William Clark, director at the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows, said he offered prayers for those hurt by the senseless act.

“The people who did that, whatever their problem is, it’s tragedy enough. But when it involves so many children, that’s what makes it so tragic, so difficult to understand.”

For more photos, that day’s paper and past episodes of Throwback Thursday, visit us at