Antonio Cooper Sr. walked across a field of empty chairs that represent the victims of the Oklahoma City bombing, occasionally stopping to read names inscribed in glass panes as he searched for the one dedicated to his 6-month-old son, Antonio Cooper Jr.
"I feel it's a necessity to be here," Cooper said Tuesday as he strapped a colorful bouquet of spring flowers to the chair bearing his son's name on the 16th anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the worst domestic terror attack in U.S. history and the deadliest on U.S. soil before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
The boy's grandmother, Wanda McNeely, wept softly as she placed a beige stuffed bear on the metal chair that stands on the federal building's former site. McNeely said the death of her grandson still evokes strong emotions and observing the anniversary of the April 19, 1995, attack doesn't get easier with the passing years.
"It weighed heavily on my heart," she said as tears streamed down her cheeks. "But I couldn't tear myself not to come."
Cooper wore a red T-shirt bearing the smiling image of his young son that read "Our Lil' Angel" as he and more than 300 other people attended ceremonies at the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum on the anniversary of the bombing that killed 168 people, including his son and 17 other children who were being cared for at a day care center on the building's second floor.
If you haven't been to the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum, go.
I hope the eventual World Trade Center Memorial in New York is half as dignified and moving.