We're going to miss seeing them," Wanda Askins says of four federal workers who were among the 167 people killed after a 4,800-pound fertilizer bomb ripped apart Oklahoma City's Alfred P. Murrah Federal Office Building.
For 12 years, Askins served food and drink during a twice-a-week noon Bible study sponsored by the First United Methodist Church, a half-block away. Four federal workers killed in the blast had attended the interdenominational meetings.
By nightfall on the day of the deadliest terrorist act in American history, many Oklahoma City churches had opened for prayer meetings. For the next 16 days, as search crews recovered bodies from the remains of the nine-story federal building, local pastors counseled the grieving while thousands of their parishioners served meals, gave money, and even packed sheets to be used as makeshift body bags.
As a tired city tries to regain its bearing, the wounds-ranging from boarded-up windows downtown to personal and corporate grief-are far from healed.
Of the five church buildings damaged, the blast hit the First United Methodist Church, the oldest Protestant church in the city, the hardest. The explosion shattered virtually every window, sent the sanctuary's beams and chandeliers crashing down on pews, and toppled the choir loft. However, a circular stained-glass window depicting Christ's face remains intact. Damage to the church is at least "several million dollars," according to associate pastor Todd Scoggins.
Throughout the ordeal, the medical examiner's office used the church as a temporary morgue.
Askins, a First Methodist member since 1939, has been shaken by the damage. "The church, since I was a child, just seems like a home to me. It just seems as if someone came and took my ...1
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