“The spirit of this city and this nation will not be defeated; our deeply rooted faith sustains us…” those words etched around the Survivor Tree at the Oklahoma City National Memorial are the words of Reverend Billy Graham spoken during the statewide prayer service the Sunday following the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.
Upon reflecting on Rev. Graham’s death, we remain grateful he was with us in Oklahoma City and leading our nation in a prayer service in our darkest hours. Today, Oklahoma City remembers Rev. Billy Graham and the strength and hope he brought us in the earliest of days and even on a return visit years later.
“When we called to ask Rev. Graham to come, he made an enormous effort to be with us as he had been in bed all week with what the doctors believed was the flu. Nonetheless he hopped on a plane with his lovely wife Ruth and his son Franklin and arrived early enough to visit the site. At that time he met with the rescue workers, volunteers and family members in an effort to bring them comfort and to reach out in faith unlike anyone else could. The next day at the prayer service, it was miraculous to see such an infirmed man, clearly weakened by the previous weeks illness, rise to the occasion with such enormous strength and conviction and fill our hearts and our souls with the power of faith, hope and love which helped not only each of us, but our city and state begin to heal”, said former First Lady and organizer of the event Cathy Keating. “He will forever be in our hearts.”
In an interview in 2012, Mr. Graham he said he was humbled the Memorial asked to inscribe his words at the Memorial. “It certainly reflects my deepest feelings, and the feelings of millions of Americans as they remember what happened here. I saw people in Oklahoma and around the country turning to God in renewed faith and trust. It was true for me as well.”
“One of my lasting memories will always be the opportunity I had to meet and pray with some of the families who had lost loved ones, and also with some of the survivors to hear their stories – some of which were truly remarkable. After the prayer service, President Clinton and I slipped away to meet privately with them, and it was very moving. I was struck by the President’s heartfelt concern; he couldn’t have been more sincere and more consoling,” Graham recalled.
“His personal collection of photographs, notes and speech from his trip to Oklahoma City courtesy of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, are a part of the permanent Memorial Archives and will be on display this weekend as we remember a life well lived,” said Kari Watkins, Executive Director of OKC National Memorial & Museum.
Today the former Oklahoma Governor Frank and Cathy Keating fondly remember their time with Rev. Graham…
Billy Graham embraced us during our darkest hour. His humility. His decency. His spirituality. We shall always appreciate his essential presence. –Former Governor Frank Keating
Even while recovering from the flu, he came to Oklahoma City immediately after the bombing to lift us up with hope and fill our hearts with faith. Nearly 23 years later his presence is felt. –Former First Lady Cathy Keating
Our prayers are with the Graham family during this time and we in Oklahoma City remain thankful for Mr. Graham’s visits here as he changed lives and brought hope with each visit.