DENVER -- On a bookshelf in a quiet church office sits a piece of granite being watched by a photo of Pope Francis. The heavy slab with flecks of gray and tan is tucked away from the noisy crowd outside of the office who just got done with Sunday mass. Conversations about the past week are shared by parishioners over coffee and doughnuts; many not realizing the historical significance of the shattered stone just a few feet away.
“I think it is a symbol,” said Rev. Chris Uhl as he holds the slab, a piece of the Alfred P. Murrah building. “Oklahoma gave us a piece of the building,”said Rev Uhl. It was Oklahoma City’s way to say ‘thank you’ to the church for helping victims heal during the trials of the two men who blew-up the federal building twenty year ago.
The church is only a few blocks from the federal court and during the long proceedings families and victims needed a place to go: to collect their thoughts, get a warm meal and get some spiritual guidance, but also a place where they quickly could get back to court.
“We tried to give them as much time away from everybody as we could,” said Kenneth Martinez, a parishioner. Martinez, a former Denver Sheriff’s Deputy, remembers the chaos outside the church. “Security was really tight,” he said. Streets were blocked off, manhole covers welded shut and media from around the world surrounded the courthouse.
Martinez said he went to OKC after the trials to visit and understand what happened. “We have to be reminded of tragedies like that, so they don’t happen again.”
It’s the same message on a plaque, glued to the piece of granite: “We will not forget.”
“Despite terrorist, despite the difficulties and horrible tragedy of all of that, healing can happen too,” said Rev. Uhl said.