Associated Press

25 years ago, a prayer service gave hope to a shaken America

By Bobby Ross Jr. | For The Associated Press

OKLAHOMA CITY — Search-and-rescue workers came straight from the blast site, hard hats atop their heads and mud and grime on their boots.

Relatives of the missing joined loved ones of those already confirmed dead in holding teddy bears and wiping tears as this grieving heartland city — indeed, the entire shaken nation — came together to pray.

On a somber Sunday 25 years ago, the late Rev. Billy Graham shook off the flu to try and explain how a loving God could have allowed the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building to occur.

But Graham — America’s pastor-in-chief — had no answer.

Lynne Gist sits next to her sister’s memorial in the Field of Empty Chairs at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum in Oklahoma City. The site is made up of 168 empty chairs representing those who lost their lives, with their name etched in the glass base. AP photo by Sue Ogrocki

“I appreciated him saying, ‘I don’t know why,’ that this was something we were not going to understand,” said Lynne Gist, whose sister, Karen Gist Carr, 32, was among the 168 dead in what remains the deadliest act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history.

Despite the lack of answers, the April 23, 1995, prayer service — four days after the bombing — began the healing process for this Bible Belt state and millions of TV viewers around the world.

“It was a time when it didn’t matter if you were red or blue, Republican or Democrat,” said Kari Watkins, executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum. “We were just Americans, and we came together and leaned on our faith as one of the first steps to get over this, and I don’t think we have ever looked back.”

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This story appears on The Associated Press national wire.

AP file photo by Beth A Keiser

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