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U.S. Department of Transportation U.S. Department of Transportation Icon United States Department of Transportation United States Department of Transportation

Public Roads - Winter 1996

A Living Memorial

by Bonny Falk and Bob Bryant

On Oct. 11, 1995, a memorial marker and grove of 11 Oklahoma redbud trees were dedicated at the Turner-Fairbank Highway Research Center (TFHRC) in McLean, Va. The 11 trees symbolize the pledge of the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to perpetually remember the 11 FHWA employees who lost their lives in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.

Federal Highway Administrator Rodney E. Slater gave the keynote speech at the ceremony attended by nearly 200 FHWA and other Department of Transportation employees. Other speakers included Don Steinke, deputy administrator of FHWA Region 6; Bruce Lind, assistant division administrator of the Oklahoma Division; and Clinton O. Magby II, director of field operations for the Office of Motor Carriers. Coast Guard Chaplain Skip Blancett gave the invocation, and John MacGowan, chief of TFHRC's Intelligent Transportation Systems Research Division, represented John A. Clements, associate administrator for research and development, as the host and master of ceremonies.

The U.S. Coast Guard Band's Brass Quintet and the Coast Guard Presidential Honor Guard also participated in the ceremony.

The memorial marker is dominated by a relief of a tree with spreading branches representing not only the grove itself but also the many people blessed by the work and lives of the FHWA 11. Along the top of the marker are the words: WE REMEMBER. On the left side of the marker is engraved:

In the autumn of 1995, the Federal Highway Administration planted 11 redbud trees on this site to commemorate the lives of 11 FHWA family members. Our colleagues and 157 others died when a terrorist's bomb destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, on April 19, 1995. These trees are a living tribute to these dedicated public servants.


The names of the FHWA 11 are listed on the right side of the marker:

Lucio Aleman Jr.

Mark A. Bolte

Michael J. Carrillo

Larry J. Jones

James K. Martin

Jerry L. Parker

Michelle A. Reeder

Rick L. Tomlin

Johnny A. Wade

Ronota A. Woodbridge

John A. Youngblood


"We will not let the memory of the horror of their deaths supplant our memory of the joy they brought to our lives," said Slater. "Not only will these living trees remind us of their vitality and strength, but the beauty of these trees, particularly each April when the rosy pink blossoms appear, will remind us of the many ways in which they enriched our lives and contributed to our shared goals."
"These were people just like you and me. They had children - 20 children in all - who lost a father or a mother. ... The 11 innocent victims also are survived by eight spouses, as well as some parents and other relatives. That's why it is so easy for us to identify with them. They didn't do anything to deserve this fate. There, but for the grace of God, go you and I!" Slater continued.

Steinke concluded his remarks with a quote from American writer Grenville Kleiser, "Today is the day to express your noblest qualities of mind and heart, to do at least one worthy thing that you have long postponed." Lind expressed the appreciation of the families of the Oklahoma victims for the memorial grove. He noted that the education of the victims' children was assured through the Federal Employees Education and Assistance Fund OK-DOT /FHWA Memorial Fund, the Governor's Relief Fund, and the Heartland Fund.

Magby recalled visiting John Youngblood in the hospital following the bombing. Magby said that John, despite the excruciating pain, gave him the "thumbs up" sign.

Slater called the grove a place of peace, stillness, beauty, and reflection, and he said, "It will also be a powerful reminder to present and future FHWA people of the need to move on, to persevere, to be faithful in our pursuit of excellence."

"Each tree will continue to grow and bloom just as each one of them would have continued to serve and contribute to our nation. And these trees will live for years after all the rest of us have faded from the scene - a living reminder of our comrades' sacrifice," said Slater.

And he concluded, "Indeed, we remember, and we are grateful for the opportunity to have known these 11 people and to have counted them among our colleagues and our friends. They live on in our hearts and our memories."



Chaplain Skip Blancett delivers the invocation. Other participants in the ceremony included (from left): Don Steinke, Bruce Lind, Clinton O. Magby II, Rodney Slater, and John MacGowan.

Bonny Falk is a writer-editor in the Publications Section of the Office of Research and Development for FHWA.

Bob Bryant is the editor of Public Roads . He is employed by Avalon Integrated Services Corp. as the project manager of an editorial support team in the FHWA's Office of Research and Development.