Ordinarily on a weekday afternoon, Glenda Riley would be at work, for the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
But last Wednesday, Riley was outside instead, walking along the fence that surrounds the ground where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building once stood, and where her office was. "I couldn't do it today," she said of her job.The bombing on April 19, 1995, killed 168 people. Thirty-five of them were in the HUD offices.
"Our office, it was an open area, really only separated by file cabinets and partitions. You knew about everyone's lives because you heard everything," said Riley, who escaped from the wreckage uninjured.
While she walked, a group of high school students from Michigan also were visiting the site.
"It's just kind of a shocking feeling," 15-year-old Amy Gillingham said as she looked at the messages, pictures, stuffed bunnies and bears fastened to the fence. "You think you know what it's like, but you really don't."
Gillingham and her fellow band members from Mount Pleasant, Mich., were to perform Sunday at a third anniversary ceremony. She and the other musicians raised the money to come to Oklahoma City to play a commemorative piece written by her father, a music professor at Central Michigan University.
"I hope that when we play this piece, it will help people in the healing process," she said.
Another member of the group, Jessica Church, found a message on the fence that was written by a little boy to a victim of the bomb. "Dear Aunt Kim, I miss you more than anything. Love you, Kevin," the message read.
"That's basically when I started crying," said Church, 18. "This is the hardest thing I've ever done."
Riley recalled that on the day of the bombing she was walking to a friend's desk "when everything went behind me."
She and a co-worker lay on the floor while a bomb scare drove rescue workers away.
The other woman grabbed Riley's arm and suggested they jump out a window to avoid another explosion.
"I told her, `All we have to do is wait here long enough for them to get a ladder to us,"' she said. "I told her, `God's been with us so far and that's the only reason why we're here.' "
Police eventually helped them out a broken window and along a ledge to safety.
Emotional scars have been hard for some to shake, and one of Riley's surviving co-workers recently committed suicide.
It's hard to generalize what many of the victims' families are feeling now, but anger seems to be common, said a counselor, Lou Ann Smith.
"The trials have stirred a lot of emotions," said Smith. "It's mainly the anger with Terry Nichols and what happened as far as the outcome with his jurors."
In December, a jury convicted Nichols of involuntary manslaughter and conspiracy. Many were angry that the panel found Nichols guilty of a charge less than first-degree murder and that it was unable to agree on a punishment.
Nichols will be sentenced later this year. Co-defendant Timothy McVeigh was convicted of federal murder and conspiracy counts tied to the bombing and was sentenced to death.
Smith planned to be on hand with other counselors Sunday in case victims or relatives need to talk. Riley also planned to be there.
"Someone said the other day that it's always going to be this way. I guess I try to look on the positive side of things," she said. "When the trials are over and everything is settled legally, that will bring a little more closure."