12/25/1995 at 01:00 AM EST
At this time of year we at PEOPLE like to look back over the past 12 months and revisit the stories that touched our readers the most. In 1995 no sequel has been more satisfying than that of the tiny survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing. When they first broke the nation's heart, Christopher Nguyen, 6, Nakia McCloud, 4, Joseph Webber, 2, P.J. Allen, 2, Brandon Denny, 4, and his sister Rebecca, 3, were bundles in rescuers' arms. Of the 21 children who had been dropped off at the America's Kids day-care center on the fateful morning of April 19, only these six remained alive.
This month all six reunited for the first time in Edmond, Okla., brought together by the benevolent owners of the local bowling alley, Boulevard Bowl. The children, by now well on the mend, knocked down pins, opened early Christmas presents and received checks for $7,737 raised in a charity bowling tournament to defray their future expenses. The party also gave the families a chance to reflect on the greatest gift of all: their children's lives. "We feel like we've got a second chance to get our priorities straight," says Dan Webber, 29, an attorney whose son suffered a broken arm and jaw and punctured eardrums. "I try to get home from work as soon as possible and spend time with Joseph."
Sharing in the reunion were PEOPLE photographer Taro Yamasaki and correspondent Bob Stewart, who have followed the Denny family through the recovery of Rebecca and the delicate rehabilitation of Brandon (see story on page 136). The Dennys allowed Stewart into their lives after the children's father, Jim, talked to him on the phone and said, "I hear the grandfather in your voice." Stewart, 56 and indeed a grandfather of two, was impressed by the family's tenacity. "They're not your usual heroic figures," he says. "They're ordinary people thrust into unique circumstances. They do what they have to do to take care of business."
Stewart also developed a relationship with P.J. Allen, who was burned over 50 percent of his small body and suffered charred lungs when he was blown clear of the second-story daycare center. Doctors told his legal guardians, grandparents Willie and Deloris Watson, that P.J. had to avoid direct sunlight for the next two
years to prevent scarring. Desperate to create a safe play space for his grandson, Willie Watson resolved to spend his life savings to build a filtered-glass sunroom.
Stewart knew where to turn: "I had met a consultant named Frank Bolen who had cofounded something called the Resource Coordination Committee, and he asked me if I knew anyone who needed help." Within five days an architect, a lawyer, a banker and a contractor were in the Watson home, volunteering their services and supplies. Today, P.J. toddles about in a glass-walled playroom, equipped with a fort and a slide, that keeps out 99 percent of the sun's ultraviolet rays. "I housed a lot of anger for the men who injured P.J.," says Watson. "But then I met Frank Bolen and contractor Mark Garvey. Thanks to them, P.J. can play in his room and be as normal as possible." Who says angels don't walk on earth?