‘Terror is still with us’: Attorney General Garland returns for Oklahoma City bombing anniversary

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Monday returned to the place that has shaped his life in public service, recounting the first horrifying images of the wreckage that once was the Oklahoma City federal building and a confrontation with the evil of domestic terrorism that continues to shadow the nation more than a quarter of century later.

In a visit steeped in symbolism, Garland, who oversaw the prosecution of bomber Timothy McVeigh and accomplice Terry Nichols, marked the 26th anniversary of the of the most deadly domestic assault in U.S. history, offering a stark reminder that the brand of terror unleashed by the bombers is “still with us.”

“It was night, but you would not have known it,” Garland told survivors and officials gathered on the grounds of the downtown memorial. “Bright lights lit the site up as if it were midday. The front of the (Alfred P.) Murrah Building was gone. The parking lot across the street still held cars that had been flattened by the blast.”

In this April 24, 1995 photo, an Oklahoma City police car decorated with the words, "We will never forget" and a small American flag sits near the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The American terrorist who set the blast killed 168 people, including 19 children. Life changed in the U.S. in its aftermath, with a new attention paid to domestic terrorism and beefed up security at federal buildings around the country. (Photo: Rick Bowmer, AP)

In a halting voice, Garland recalled the army of rescue workers “crawling all over the wreckage.”

“They were sifting through the rubble for survivors and the dead. And everyone was crying,” he said. “At the time, we did not know exactly how many people had died,” an emotional Garland told a crowd. “But we did know that the children’s center, which had been at the front of the building, was gone. Then and there, we made a vow. We promised that we would find the perpetrators, that we would bring them to justice, and that we would do so in a way that honored the Constitution.”

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