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Commentary: Tinker remembers OKC bombing 26 years later

Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial Survivor Tree

Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial Survivor Tree

Airman 1st Class Lakesha Levy

Airman 1st Class Lakesha Levy

Airman 1st Class Cartney McRaven

Airman 1st Class Cartney McRaven

Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial chair in honor of Lakesha Levy

Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial chair in honor of Lakesha Levy

Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial chair in memory of Airman 1st Class Cartney McRaven

Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial chair in memory of Airman 1st Class Cartney McRaven

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. --

At 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, the Oklahoma City skyline was forever changed as smoke billowed from a bomb that exploded in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing 168 innocent men, women and children.

Through the catastrophic event that unfolded in the heart of our city, the world saw Oklahomans show up, ready to overcome this tragedy together in service, honor and kindness. This became known as the “Oklahoma Standard.”

That event also forged a bond between Oklahoma City and Tinker Air Force Base during the rescue, recovery and relief operations following the bombing devastation.

While we see the Oklahoma Standard on display inside the gates day-in and day-out, it was never more evident than on that day, 26 years ago.

Less than an hour after the explosion, the 72nd Medical Group sprang into action providing medical personnel, equipment and supplies to aid in the recovery and relief efforts. Tinker also provided fire and rescue teams, civil engineering teams, bomb dogs, ambulances and other support. Supplies like tents, lights, cots, blankets, stethoscopes, hospital tape, scissors and equipment such as jack hammers, air chisels, bobcats, dump trucks, trailers and air compressors were also sent downtown.

While two victims are special to Team Tinker -- Airman 1st Class Cartney McRaven of the 32nd Combat Communications Squadron and Airman 1st Class LaKesha Richardson Levy of the 72nd Medical Group, who were both in the Social Security office when the bomb went off – we cannot forget the other 166 lost that day.

If you’ve never had the honor to tour the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, I urge you to make time for a visit. Inside the Museum, visitors experience a sequential timeline that transports them back to the events of April 19, from audio captured during the Oklahoma Water Resources Board meeting to helicopter news footage from outside the Murrah building and the blast itself.

Over the last year many things have tried to divide us, but let us not forget that we are stronger together than apart. As we come together to commemorate the 26th anniversary of the OKC bombing and look back on the events of that day, we must always remember those who we lost, those who survived and all of those who had a hand in the recovery and healing.