On the morning of April 19, 1995 a truck bomb went off in front of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 168 people, including 19 children were killed as a result. It was, to date, the deadliest terrorist attack on United States soil. About 90 minutes later, Timothy McVeigh was arrested and later connected to the boming. Later, Terrry Nichols and Michael Fortier were also connected to the bombing. Many books and articles were written on this epic event, some I will be drawing from in this analysis.
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Terrorist Event: April 19, 1995 Oklahoma City Bombing
It was shortly before 9:00 am and many of the 550 employees at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City were going to work. Some were dropping off their kids at the on-site day care – saying goodbye to their children for, perhaps, the last time. At 9:02 am, an explosion went off in front of the building that rocked the entire city. In a flash there were over one hundred dead and many injured. Who was to blame for this horrendous act of terrorism? Would this person be brought to justice before any more crimes against humanity could be committed? In all, 168 people would be found dead, 19 of which were children at the day care and one was a nurse at the scene. Three people would be arrested in connection to the bombing. One of those would be put to death. This is the case analysis of who bombed the federal building, why they did it and what happened afterward.
It was February 28, 1993 – two years before the bombing. Timothy McVeigh, son of Bill and Mildred McVeigh was at the Davidian compound in Waco Texas during the Federal standoff against David Koresh and his followers. He was very interested in this event because it only reconfirmed his beliefs that the government just wanted to take over with brute force. Sitting on the hood of his car, selling anti-government bumper stickers with such sayings as “FEAR THE GOVERNMENT THAT FEARS YOUR GUNS” and “A MAN WITH A GUN IS A CITIZEN, A MAN WITHOUT A GUN IS A SUBJECT” (Michel and Herbeck, 2001, p. 120) he was trying to spread his beliefs. He even spoke about his sentiment to a college student doing an article for the school paper:
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It seems that the ATF just wants a chance to play with their toys, paid for by government money. The government is afraid of the guns people have because they have to have control of the people at all times. Once you take away the guns, you can do anything to the people. You give them an inch and they take a mile. I believe we are slowly turning into a socialist government. The government is continually growing bigger and more powerful, and the people need to prepare to defend themselves against government control. (Michel and Herbeck, 2001, p. 120)
Of course, the standoff at Waco ended with 75 dead, which further fueled McVeigh’s desire to get back at the government. “The death toll was high and many people blamed the U.S. government for the tragedy. One such person was Timothy McVeigh.” (Rosenburg, About.com)
McVeigh put a lot of miles on his Geo Metro cruising around the country making appearances at every gun show possible. He became a fixture at the gun shows bantering on about how the government plans on taking people’s gun rights away from them. He believed that the government was swelling and its sole intention was to take over the people and form a socialist society. Even beyond that, he believed that there was going to be a New World Order. While at the huge Wanenmacher gun show in Tulsa, Oklahoma, he was speaking with a gun dealer saying, “you watch, there’ll be a single currency, a single police force – one all-powerful central government for everyone on the planet” (Michel and Herbeck, 2001, p. 127).
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What everyone didn’t know at the time was that this particular anti-government gun enthusiast and David Koresh supporter was going to later cause more damage in one
single event on American soil than has ever been done before. An American terrorist in the making, McVeigh was determined to pay the government back for all of the irreparable harm they had caused him and so many others. He saw the government as taking over everyone’s lives and it was up to him to set an example and put a stop to it.
Timothy McVeigh enlisted in the army after high school and, during his stint with the military he met up with Terry Nichols who shared the same anti-government ideals as him. “Tim liked Terry because he was so knowledgeable…Tim found in Terry…an older brother. Terry liked Tim because he now had someone to talk to” (Stickney, 1996, p. 91). They both shared the same passion for guns and felt that the government repeatedly stuck its nose where it didn’t belong. They became good friends and together they planned the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City.
In September 1994, McVeigh purchased large amounts of fertilizer (ammonium nitrate) and then stored it in a rented shed…McVeigh and Nichols stole other supplies needed to complete the bomb from a quarry in Marion, Kansas. On April 17, 1995, McVeigh rented a Ryder truck and…loaded the truck with approximately 5000 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer. (Rosenberg, About.com)
At around 9am on April 19th, McVeigh parked the van in front of the Murrah building, lit the fuse to the bomb and ran toward the escape vehicle. He actually paused to watch the
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bomb go off two blocks from the site in an alley. After seeing his accomplishment, he got to the getaway car and drove off leaving the building in ruins.
What McVeigh didn’t count on was that a highway patrol officer would pull him over for not having a license plate on his vehicle. He was arrested after the officer found him in possession of an unregistered firearm. McVeigh was detained and questioned and it was then that they were able to link him to the bombing.
Michael Fortier was another “anti-government” army buddy of McVeigh’s who introduced Timothy to pot and amphetamines. He also helped him check out the Murrah building and plan the event:
Driving around to the front of the building, Fortier gazed with McVeigh at the huge wall of “black glass” and a set of stairs leading to the front doors of the structure. An access road leading up to the entrance concerned McVeigh: was it big enough to accommodate the truck he was planning to use? Fortier assured him that three trucks that size could fit. (Michel and Herbeck, 2001, p. 188)
McVeigh said that he didn’t know that a daycare center was located in the building and that he probably would’ve changed his target had he known that. However, he wasn’t sorry that all of those federal employees were killed. It was his redemption – one that would ultimately lead to a death sentence.
Terry Nichols was sentenced to life in prison for being an accomplice to McVeigh. Michael Fortier was given a twelve-year prison sentence and fined 200,000
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for his involvement. And on June 11, 2001 Timothy J. McVeigh was put to death by lethal injection.
168 people going about their daily business at the Murrah building died that horrible day in April off ‘95. Up until September 11, 2001, the Oklahoma City bombing was the deadliest terrorist attack on United States soil. On May 23, 1995 the remainder of the building was demolished and in 2000, a memorial was built there to remember those that died. At the one-year anniversary of the bombing, President Clinton stated in his weekly radio address:
Sometimes it takes a terrible tragedy to illuminate a basic truth: In a democracy, government is not them versus us. We are all us, we are all in it together. Government is our neighbors and friends helping others pursue the dreams we all share: to live in peace, provide for ourselves and our loved ones, and give our children a chance for an even better life. (Stickney, 1996, p. 305)
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Michel, L. & Herbeck, D. (2001). American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh & The
Oklahoma City Bombing. New York, NY: Harper Collins Publishers Inc.
Rosenberg, J. (?). Oklahoma City Bombing. About.com.
Stickney, B. (1996). “All American Monster”: The Unauthorized Biography Of Timothy McVeigh. Amherst, NY: Prometheus books.