At 9:02 a.m. Wednesday, the city stood still.
Exactly a week after the catastrophic truck-bomb attack, Gov. Frank Keating blew a whistle and then briefly joined hands with his wife at the ruined federal building. The droning beep of cranes removing rubble ceased. At least one officer removed his glasses and wiped a tear; a worker made the sign of the cross.Drivers pulled off highways throughout the city of 445,000 residents. Conversations ended in midsentence at the church where families were getting the news that their loved ones had died. But outside, Air Force personnel continued to load supplies into trucks and vans, hauling them toward the bomb site.
The moment was observed across the nation. St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City pealed its bells; the Iowa and Nebraska legislatures took a pause from their sessions.
Keating had asked for the moment of silence to mark the time seismologists say the bomb - now estimated to have weighed 4,800 pounds - destroyed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building a week ago Wednesday.
The bomb's toll climbed to 98 Wednesday, and investigators pressed a search for their most-wanted suspect.
Brothers James and Terry Nichols, previously held as witnesses, were charged Tuesday as conspirators with bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh in the construction of explosive devices in Michigan.
McVeigh, 27, remained the only person arrested in the actual bombing. He is not charged in the Michigan case, and the Nichols brothers are not charged in the Oklahoma bombing.
A law enforcement source in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said traces of nitrates and high explosive were detected in the car McVeigh was driving when stopped for a traffic infraction hours after the blast.
The FBI continued searching for a second suspect, identified only as "John Doe 2," and released a second sketch of him Tuesday. But The Daily Oklahoman reported Wednesday that agents also were pursuing a theory that he died in the blast.
Wind gusting to 32 mph hampered the search early Wednesday. Operations were suspended in parts of the building for fear the gusts would bring down unstable chunks of debris, Fire Capt. Todd Matthews said. Crews used brooms, shovels and rakes to push back debris from exposed areas.
"The problem yesterday was, we hit a point where large structural members became exposed. They had to do a lot of jackhammer work," said Fire Chief Gary Marrs. "We're optimistic that when we start today, we can move across it."
The death toll was at 98, including a nurse killed in the rescue effort. The bodies of 14 children have been found, including one located Tuesday night. Mayor Ron Norick doubted that all the victims would be identified, suggesting that "anybody that was on the sidewalk was vaporized."
When the FBI released the slightly revised sketch of John Doe No. 2, a motel manager in Junction City, Kan., recognized him as a guest who drove a Ryder rental truck and stayed there two days before the bombing. Investigators believe the bomb was carried in a Ryder truck.
"He was scared. He didn't want to talk to me too much," the manager told The Associated Press, saying the man spoke broken English. He said FBI agents seized the book containing the name the man registered under.
The manager, who would not give his name, also said a man registered as James Nichols on April 7. The motel is one exit down Interstate 70 from the Dreamland Motel, where McVeigh stayed April 14-18.
A law enforcement source said that nitrates - one of the components believed used in the bomb - have been detected in samples taken from the site of an explosion Feb. 21 near the Kingman, Ariz., trailer where McVeigh once lived.
"The theory is that this may have been a test," said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
The Nichols brothers, friends of McVeigh who allegedly shared his anti-government views, were named in conspiracy charges relating to small bombs prosecutors said they made in previous years.
A court affidavit said James Nichols, a 41-year-old farmer, told FBI agents on April 21 that McVeigh "had the knowledge to manufacture a bomb" and that the three men made "bottle bombs" in 1992. Last year, the Nichols brothers made small explosive devices, the court document said.
In addition to linking the Nichols brothers to McVeigh, the charges allow the government to continue holding the men, who previously were in custody as material witnesses. James is being held in Michigan; Terry in Kansas.
In the Michigan case, the affidavit said Terry Nichols had "survival books" with information about making ammonium nitrate bombs, the kind used at the federal building. It also said materials that could be used in an "improvised bomb," including 28 50-pound bags of fertilizer containing ammonium nitrate, were at his farm.
An early version of the affidavit said neighbor Daniel Stomber heard James Nichols "stating that judges and President Clinton should be killed, and that he blamed the FBI and the ATF (federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms) for killing the Branch Davidians" in an assault on the sect's compound in Waco, Texas, exactly two years before the Oklahoma City blast.
The information about Clinton and the judges was deleted from the document actually filed in court with the charges because "it might have been inflammatory," Justice Department spokesman John Russell said Wednesday.
New York Newsday Wednesday quoted Oliver Revell, a retired FBI agent who headed the Dallas office until last summer, as saying the FBI and ATF received an increasing number of threats in the past several months that their Oklahoma City offices would be punished for the Waco assault.
"There has been a buildup in the last few months," Revell said. He said Robert Ricks, the FBI agent who played a key role at Waco and now runs the Oklahoma City office, "is taking the threats seriously."
ATF officials, requesting anonymity, denied they had a specific threat that matched the actual explosion, but said threats against the agency have risen since the passage of gun-control laws in the past two years. They said several offices, including the one in the bombed building, increased security.
Dozens of additional stories on the bombing are online. See "Oklahoma bombing" in World News section.