Today I would like to discuss something that is neither Democrat nor Republican in nature, but simply American. That, Mr. Speaker, is the greatness of this nation and of the American community, the extraordinary ability of American men and women to overcome tragedy and to be stronger for it.
Twelve years ago today, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was destroyed by an explosion that claimed the lives of 168 men, women and children, and that left over 800 injured. At the time, it was the deadliest terror attack ever carried out on American soil.
Like everyone else in Oklahoma, I can remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I remember seeing the carnage on television, and later that day, in person, and thinking "How can this have happened? What kind of person would do this?" And I saw the acts of one deranged mad man bring our city to a standstill, while the nation watched and grieved.
But even before the smoke and rubble had been cleared, I saw something wonderful. I saw complete strangers coming together, praying, and comforting each other. I saw a state and then an entire nation rally behind the families who had lost their loved ones. And rather than a group of victims, the men and women of Oklahoma became a group of heroes, facing down terrorists and rebuilding both their city and their lives.
Twelve years later, we still bare the scars of that awful day. We will never forget. And today, the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial stands as a reminder of our pain and our heartbreak in the days and months after that attack.
But the memorial stands for more than that. It reminds us of the strength of our community. It reminds us of a city and a state that came together after a devastating attack to heal itself and to rebuild. And finally, it reminds us of the greatness of this country and of the power of American hope, even in the face of the most heartbreaking of tragedies.
Our memorial is a monument to our sadness. But it is also a monument to our hope and ultimately to our strength. Today we are a thriving city. We have a new federal building which is stronger and safer than the one that was destroyed. And after facing tremendous adversity, we became a stronger people.
On Monday, the nation and the state of Virginia suffered another terrible tragedy, when a crazed gunman shot and killed 33 men and women on the Virginia Tech campus. It is yet another tragedy of almost unimaginable proportions – innocent students living in what they thought was a peaceful sanctuary, only to have their lives cut short by a mad man.
In a time of sadness, I believe that the story of the Oklahoma City Bombing can deliver a message of hope to the families and friends of the victims, and indeed to the nation.
Twelve years ago today we saw tragedy and death. But we also witnessed the healing power of prayer and the strength of friendship and community. We found God in the most trying of times and we found ourselves stronger for it.
My message to the students and faculty of Virginia Tech is this: your community and your faith are more powerful than the destructive urges of one crazed gunman. Again and again the people of this great nation are faced with adversity and tragedy, and again and again we overcome that tragedy and grow stronger. So will you.
And while you struggle to find meaning in this calamity and to deal with the pain and sadness of that terrible event, you should know that all of America stands with you, and prays with you, and will ultimately heal with you.
Speech from http://fallin.house.gov/list/speech/ok05_fallin/speech_070419_vtech.shtml, August 28, 2007.