OKLAHOMA CITY Workers broke ground for a new federal building Tuesday, with the mayor saying he hoped the project would send a message of hope to New Yorkers recovering from the Sept. 11 attack.
"We're farther down the road than them," Mayor Kirk Humphreys said. "We have rebuilt, and they need to know they will, too."
The 3 1/2-story structure will be built just north of where the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah Building stood before April 19, 1995. The building was destroyed by a fertilizer bomb concealed in a truck parked nearby by Timothy McVeigh. The blast killed 168 people and injured hundreds of others.
Former workers at the building and others who lost loved ones in the explosion attended the groundbreaking ceremony.
Sandy Cole, whose two godchildren died in the blast, said she supports the new building: "It just shows that terrorists can't win and things do change."
The mayor acknowledged that there has been opposition to the project, but he said it had the support of former President Clinton and President George W. Bush.
"They wanted to make sure we have the victory and not the terrorists," said Humphreys, who also took New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani a seedling from the "survivor tree" the American Elm that withstood the explosion.
"I wanted him to know there was hope, that there was healing, but it is a long process," the mayor said.
Stephen Perry, administrator of the U.S. General Services Administration, said putting the new building near the site of the old building symbolizes "to the world how we have moved on and how we have chosen to live our values and not bow to terrorism."
The structure will be built under security guidelines drawn up after the bombing. The reinforced structure will contain explosion-resistant glass facing a courtyard that divides the building and creates an entrance into a single lobby. The structure is scheduled to be completed by September 2003.
The GSA's Corey Black said some people have expressed concern about returning to an area that was once one of the nation's most gruesome crime scenes. The Oklahoma City National Memorial is also less than a block away.
"Some said they didn't want to walk past that every day," Black said.
McVeigh was executed in June for the bombing. Co-defendant Terry Nichols was given a life term on a federal conviction and faces a state trial on murder charges.