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APRIL 19, 1995


Guest Darrell
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Guest Darrell

I recently picked up a Oklahoma National Guard Medal and it brought back a few memories. I just happened to fly into Oklahoma City in June 1995 a mere 2 months after the bomb blast. Although the rest of the building had by then been brought down by explosives, the rubble and destruction was still very much apparent in the 3-4 blocks from epicenter.

I managed to snap a few shots from a distance showing the remaining debris. A few years later I returned when the entire site had been turned into a memorial c/w little chairs arranged in alternating rows corresponding to the floor certain victims of the blast were at that instant.

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Guest Darrell

In 2002 I returned and the memorial was complete. This is a shot from the opposite end of the street as above. The perfect "river" of water is only about 1/4 inch thick. Smooth as glass on a calm day.

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Guest Darrell

5. Looking cross-way where the building stood. The chairs are dedicated with the names of all the victims in rows related to the floor each was at when the bomb went off. Each one has a small light in the glass cubical underneath the chairs which illuminates at night.

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Guest Darrell

6. A picture across the street where the former record Journal Building once stood. It has been since repaired an turned into a memorial building. Well worth a walk through if you have time.

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Guest Darrell

The Oklahoma City bombing was a domestic terrorist attack on April 19, 1995 aimed at the U.S. government in which the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, an office complex in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was bombed. The attack claimed 168 lives and left over 800 people injured. It was the first major terrorist attack and until the September 11, 2001 attacks, it was the deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil.

Shortly after the explosion, Oklahoma State Trooper Charlie Hanger stopped 26-year-old Timothy McVeigh for driving without a license plate and arrested him for that offense and for unlawfully carrying a weapon.[1] Within days after the bombing, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols were both arrested for their roles in the bombing. Investigators determined that they were sympathizers of a militia movement and that their motive was to retaliate against the government's handling of the Waco and Ruby Ridge incidents (the bombing occurred on the anniversary of the Waco incident). McVeigh was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001. Nichols was sentenced to life in prison. A third conspirator, Michael Fortier, who testified against McVeigh and Nichols, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for failing to warn the U.S. government. As with other large scale terrorist attacks, conspiracy theories dispute the official claims and point to additional perpetrators involved.

The attacks led to widespread rescue efforts from local, state, and federal and worldwide agencies, along with considerable donations from across the country. As a result of the destruction of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, the U.S. government passed legislation designed to increase protection around federal buildings and to thwart future terrorist attacks. Under these measures, law enforcement has since foiled sixty domestic terrorism plots.[2] On April 19, 2000, the Oklahoma City National Memorial was dedicated on the site of the Murrah Federal Building to commemorate the victims of the bombing and annual remembrance services are held at the time of the explosion.

Prelude

The two main conspirators, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, had met in 1988 at Fort Benning during Basic Training for the U.S. Army.[3] Michael Fortier was an Army roommate of McVeigh's.[4] As a survivalist, McVeigh viewed guns as important tools for survival, since they could be used to protect one's food and other supplies from desperate marauders after the collapse of the economy. The three shared libertarian views, including opposition to gun control and anger at the federal government's handling of the Waco Siege and the incident at Ruby Ridge. McVeigh decided to bomb a federal building as a counter-attack for these raids.[5]

The bombing was a long time planning; as early as Sept. 30, 1994, Nichols bought 40 50-pound (23 kg) bags of ammonium nitrate from Mid-Kansas Coop in McPherson, Kansas, an amount regarded as unusual even for a farmer.[6] McVeigh approached Fortier and asked him to become involved in the bombing project, but he refused, saying he would never be part of the plan "unless there was a U.N. tank in my front yard!"[7] To this, McVeigh responded, "What if the tank was in your neighbor's yard? Wouldn't you go to your neighbor's aid? What if it was in the yard of David Koresh?" But Fortier would not budge.[8]

Nichols and McVeigh stole blasting caps and liquid nitromethane, keeping it in rented storage sheds. They also allegedly robbed gun collector Roger E. Moore of $60,000 worth of guns, gold, silver and jewels, taking them away in a van, which was also stolen from him;[9] although this has been called into question because, despite the fact that McVeigh visited Moore's ranch, the robbers were said to be wearing ski masks and thus a positive identification was impossible; and in any event, the physical description did not match Nichols.[10] Also, Aryan Republican Army robbers were operating in the area of Moore's ranch at the time.[11] Moreover, McVeigh did not need to raise money for the bomb, which only cost about $5,000. All told, the truck rental cost about $250, the fertilizer less than $500, and the nitromethane $2,780, with a cheap car being used as a getaway vehicle.[12] McVeigh wrote a letter to Moore opining that government agents had committed the robbery.[13]

McVeigh wanted to use the rocket fuel anhydrous hydrazine, but its expense was prohibitive. Disguised as a bike racer, McVeigh was able to obtain nitromethane on the pretense that he and some fellow bikers needed the fuel for racing. McVeigh rented a storage space, which he used to stockpile seven crates of eighteen-inch-long Tovex sausages, eighty spools of shock tube, and five hundred electric blasting caps they had stolen from a Martin Marietta Aggregates quarry in Marion, Kansas. They decided against using the electric blasting caps, however, because the risk of premature explosion from static electricity was too great. He also declined to take any of the 40,000 pounds of ANFO he found at the scene, since it was not powerful enough for his tastes. He wanted to build a bomb containing more than 5,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer mixed with about 1,200 pounds of liquid nitromethane, 350 pounds of Tovex, and the miscellaneous weight of sixteen 55-gallon drums, for a combined weight of about 7,000 pounds.[14]

McVeigh made a prototype bomb using a plastic Gatorade jug with ammonium nitrate prills and liquid nitromethane. A piece of Tovex sausage and a blasting cap were used to ignite it. McVeigh exploded it out in the desert.[15]

The original plan was for Nichols to follow McVeigh's getaway car with his truck in the wake of the bombing, and for them then to flee in the truck back to Kansas.[16] He also originally planned to explode the bomb at 11 AM, when federal workers were preparing for lunch. When Fortier asked about all the people who would be killed, McVeigh responded, "Think about the people as if they were storm troopers in Star Wars. They may be individually innocent, but they are guilty because they work for the Evil Empire."

Later, speaking about the military mindset with which he went about the preparations, he said, "You learn how to handle killing in the military. I face the consequences, but you learn to accept it." He viewed his act as more akin to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki than the attack on Pearl Harbor, in that it was necessary to prevent more lives from being lost.[17]

McVeigh developed a list of criteria for potential attack sites. It had to have at least two federal law-enforcement agencies under its roof from a list of three, which were the BATF, the FBI, and the DEA. If there were additional law-enforcement offices, such as the Secret Service or the the U.S. Marshals Service, that would be considered a bonus. McVeigh considered targets in Arkansas, Missouri, Arizona, and Texas. By destroying people who compiled a complete cross-section of federal employees, McVeigh believed that he was showing federal agents how wrong they were to attack the entire Branch Davidian family. The Murrah building was also partly chosen because its front was made of glass, which would shatter under the force of the blast. He also wished to minimize nongovernment casualties and therefore ruled out a forty-story building in Little Rock because a florist's shop was on the ground floor. The Murrah Building was also chosen because the big open parking lot across the street would absorb and dissipate part of the concussion from the blast. McVeigh also realized that the large amount of open space around the building would also create better photo opportunities. McVeigh also sought to maximize the body count of federal employees.[18]

A week before the bombing, McVeigh visited Oklahoma City to make sure no new construction had been undertaken that could create traffic detours. He practiced his course in dry runs, preparing for all kinds of contingencies, from flat tires to run-ins with police. He scouted the route looking for speed traps, highway construction, possible road hazards, and underpasses too low for the truck. He left his getaway car a few blocks from the Murrah building with a note covering the Vehicle Identification Number plate that read, "Not abandoned. Please do not tow. Will move by April 23. (Needs battery & cable)."[19]

On April 15, 1995 Timothy McVeigh rented a Ryder truck in Junction City, Kansas under the alias Robert D. Kling, an alias he adopted because he had known a soldier named Kling with whom he shared physical characteristics, and because it reminded him of the Klingon warriors of Star Trek.[20] On April 16, he drove to Oklahoma City with fellow conspirator Terry Nichols where he parked a getaway vehicle several blocks away from the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. After removing the license plate from the car, the two men returned to Kansas. On April 17 and April 18, the men loaded 108 50-pound (23 kg) bags of explosive-grade ammonium nitrate fertilizer, three 55-US-gallon (210 l) drums of liquid nitromethane, several crates of explosive Tovex, seventeen bags of ANFO, and spools of shock tube and cannon fuse into the truck. The two then drove to Geary County State Lake where they nailed boards into the floor to hold the barrels in place and mixed the chemicals together using plastic buckets and a bathroom scale. McVeigh then added a dual-fuse ignition system that he could access through the truck's front cab. McVeigh also included more explosives on the driver's side of the cargo bay, which he could ignite at close range, at the cost of his own life, with his Glock 21 pistol if the primary fuses failed.[20] After finishing the construction of the truck-bomb, the two men separated. Nichols returned to Herington, Kansas; McVeigh drove the truck to Oklahoma City. Later during McVeigh's trial, a witness stated that McVeigh claimed to have arranged the barrels in order to form a shaped charge.[21][22]This was achieved by tamping the aluminum side panel of the Ryder truck with bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer to direct the blast laterally towards the building.[23] Specifically, McVeigh arranged the barrels in a backwards J; he said later that for pure destructive power, he would have put all the barrels on the side of the cargo bay closest to the Murrah Building; but such an unevenly-distributed 7,000-pound load might have broken an axle, flipped the truck over, or at least caused it to list to one side, which could have drawn attention.[24] Three additional empty blue steel barrels were in the cargo hold behind the main charge, "as a decoy." According to Terry Nichols, 12 bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer were left loose and placed between the barrels[25] and the aluminum truck casing. [26]

Two holes were drilled in the cab of the Ryder truck, under the seat; and two holes were drilled in the van of the Ryder truck. One green cannon fuse was run through each hole into the cab.[27] These time-delayed fuses led from the cab of the truck, through plastic fish-tank tubing conduit (painted yellow to blend in with the truck, and duct-taped in place to the wall to make them harder to disable by yanking from the outside), to two sets of non-electric Primadet blasting caps; which were set up to initiate, through shock tube, the 350 pounds of Tovex Blastrite Gel "sausages"; which would in turn set off the configuration of barrels. According to Nichols, a major booster charge of Tovex was put at the V-point in the configuration of barrels, and the barrels also had some Tovex in them; Kinepak was mixed and put in the major booster charge. Of the thirteen non-empty barrels, nine were filled with ammonium nitrate and nitromethane, and four were filled with the fertilizer and about four gallons of diesel fuel. Nine bags of unopened fertilizer remained stacked in the driver's side of the cab. This was because there had not been enough nitromethane to mix all 13 barrels. Despite the ready availability of diesel fuel at service stations, it was not possible to make up for the shortage of nitromethane by obtaining more diesel fuel to add to the fertilizer, because the blasting caps were too unstable and the nitromethane too unstable and easily degradable after mixing it with explosive-grade fertilizer, to transport long distances in the back of a bumpy rental truck. It is speculated, by investigative journalist J.D. Cash and others, that there may have been other explosives stored in the offices by federal law enforcement agents in the course of their duties. Government officials denied knowledge of such storage.[28]

At dawn on April 19, as he drove toward the Murrah Federal building, McVeigh carried with him an envelope whose contents included pages from The Turner Diaries, a fictional account of modern-day revolutionary activists who rise up against the government and create a full scale race war. He wore a printed T-shirt with the motto of the Commonwealth of Virginia, Sic semper tyrannis ("Thus ever to tyrants", which was shouted by John Wilkes Booth immediately after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln) and "The tree of liberty must be refreshed time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants" (from Thomas Jefferson). As the truck approached the building, at 8:57 a.m. CST, McVeigh lit the five-minute fuse. Three minutes later, still a block away, he lit the two-minute fuse. He parked the Ryder truck in a drop-off zone situated under the building's day care center, locked the vehicle, and headed to his getaway vehicle.[29]

McVeigh carried an envelope of libertarian materials to the bombing. These included a bumper sticker with Samuel Adams' slogan, "When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny." Underneath, McVeigh had scrawled, "Maybe now, there will be liberty!" Another quote contained John Locke's quote, "I have no reason to suppose, that he, who would take away my liberty, would not, when he had me in his power, take away every thing else. And therefore it is lawful for me to treat him as one who has put himself into a state of war with me, i.e. kill him if I can."[30]

Bombing

At 9:02 a.m. CST, the Ryder truck, containing in excess 6,200 pounds (2,800 kg)[31] of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, nitromethane, and diesel fuel mixture, detonated in front of the north side of the nine-story Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.[32][21] The blast destroyed a third of the building[33] and created a 30-foot (9.1 m) wide, 8-foot (2.4 m) deep crater on NW 5th Street next to the building.[34] The blast destroyed or damaged 324 buildings in a sixteen-block radius,[35] destroyed or burned 86 cars around the site,[36] and shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings[37] (the broken glass alone accounted for 5% of the death total and 69% of the injuries outside the Murrah Federal building).[38] The destruction of the buildings left several hundred people homeless and shut down multiple offices in downtown Oklahoma City.[39]

The effects of the blast were equivalent to over 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) of TNT,[40] and could be heard and felt up to 55 miles (89 km) away.[39]Seismometers at the Omniplex Science Museum in Oklahoma City, 4.3 miles (6.9 km) away, and in Norman, Oklahoma, 16.1 miles (25.9 km) away, recorded the blast as measuring approximately 3.0 on the Richter scale.[41]

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Guest Darrell

Arrests

Within 90 minutes of the explosion, McVeigh was arrested.[42] He was traveling north out of Oklahoma City on Interstate 35 near Perry in Noble County, when an Oklahoma State Trooper stopped him for driving his yellow 1977 Mercury Marquis without a license plate. The arrest was for having a concealed weapon.[43] Later that day, McVeigh was linked to the bombing via the Vehicle identification number (VIN) of an axle and the remnants of a license plate from the destroyed Ryder truck that had been rented under his alias name, Robert Kling.[44] Federal agents created police sketches with the assistance of owner Eldon Elliot of the Ryder Rental agency in Junction City. McVeigh was identified by Lea McGown of the Dreamland Motel, who remembered McVeigh parking a large yellow Ryder truck in the lot; moreover, McVeigh had signed in under his real name at the motel, and the address he signed in under matched the one on his forged license and the charge sheet at the Perry Police Station.[45] Prior to signing in to the hotel, McVeigh had used fake names for his transactions; McGown noted, "People are so used to signing their own name that when they go to sign a phony name, they almost always go to write, and then look up for a moment as if to remember the new name they want to use. That's what [McVeigh] did, and when he looked up I started talking to him, and it threw him."[46]

After a court hearing on the gun charges, but before McVeigh was released, federal agents took him into custody as they continued their investigation into the bombing. Rather than talk to investigators about the bombing, McVeigh demanded an attorney. Having been tipped off by the arrival of police and helicopters that a bombing suspect was inside, a restless crowd began forming outside the jail. McVeigh's requests for a bulletproof vest or transport by helicopter were denied.[47] FBI agent Danny O. Coulson said, "**** him. If he was worried about it, he shouldn't have bombed the building." Coulson traveled by helicopter with McVeigh, and told the pilot to take evasive action lest they get hit by an FIM-92 Stinger.[48]

Federal agents obtained a search warrant for the house of McVeigh's father Bill, and accordingly broke down the door and wired his home and telephone with listening devices.[49] Federal agents then searched for Nichols, a friend of McVeigh. Two days after the bombing, Nichols learned that FBI investigators were looking for him, and he turned himself in. They found ammonium nitrate and Primadet at his house, along with the electric drill used to drill out the locks at the quarry, as well as books on bomb-making and a copy of Hunter, in addition to a hand-drawn map of downtown Oklahoma City which included the Murrah Building and the spot where McVeigh's getaway car was hidden.[50] After a nine-hour interrogation, he was formally held in federal custody until his trial for involvement in the bombing.[51] Terry Nichols' brother James was also arrested but released after 32 days for lack of evidence. McVeigh's sister Jennifer was accused of illegally mailing bullets to McVeigh, but was granted immunity in exchange for testifying against him.

Ibrahim Ahmad, a Jordanian-American traveling from his home in Oklahoma City to visit family in Jordan was also arrested in what was described as an "initial dragnet". Due to his background, the media initially was concerned that Middle Eastern terrorists were behind the attack. Further investigation, however, cleared Ahmad in the bombing.[52]

At the end of the day of the bombing, twenty people were confirmed dead, including six children, with over a hundred injured.[53] The toll eventually reached 168 confirmed dead, not including an unmatched leg that might be from a possible, unidentified 169th victim.[54] Of these, 163 were killed in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, one person in the Athenian Building, one woman in a parking lot across the street, a man and woman in the Oklahoma Water Resources building, and a rescue worker struck in the head by debris. The victims ranged in age from three months to seventy-three, not including unborn children of three pregnant women. Of the dead, 99 worked for the federal government; the other 69 did not.[55][56] Nineteen of the victims were children, including fifteen who were in the America's Kids Day Care Center.[57] The bodies of all 168 victims were identified at a temporary morgue set up at the scene.[58] Twenty-four people, including sixteen specialists, used full-body X-rays, dental examinations, fingerprinting, blood tests, and DNA testing to identify the bodies.[59][58] The bomb injured 853 people with the majority of the injuries ranging from abrasions to severe burns and bone fractures.[60]

In the wake of the bombing, the national media seized upon the fact that 19 of the victims had been children. Schools across the country were dismissed early and ordered closed. A photograph of firefighter Chris Fields emerging from the rubble with infant Baylee Almon, who later died in a nearby hospital, was reprinted worldwide and became a symbol of the attack.[78] The images and thoughts of children dying terrorized many children who, as demonstrated by later research, showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.[79]

President Clinton and his wife, Hillary, showed concern about how children were reacting to the bombing. They requested that aides talk to child care specialists about how to talk to the children regarding the bombing. President Clinton spoke to the nation three days after the bombing, saying: "I don't want our children to believe something terrible about life and the future and grownups in general because of this awful thing...most adults are good people who want to protect our children in their childhood and we are going to get through this".[80] On the Saturday after the bombing, April 22, the Clintons gathered children of employees of federal agencies that had offices in the Murrah Building, and in a live nationwide television and radio broadcast, addressed their concerns.

On June 2, 1997, McVeigh was found guilty on eleven counts of murder and conspiracy.[94][95] Although the defense argued for a reduced sentence of life imprisonment, McVeigh was sentenced to death.[96] After President George W. Bush approved the execution (since McVeigh was a federal inmate, federal law dictates that the President must approve the execution) he was executed by lethal injection at a U.S. penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on June 11, 2001.[97][98] The execution was televised on closed-circuit television so that the relatives of the victims could witness his death.[99]'

Terry Nichols stood trial twice. He was first tried by the federal government in 1997 and found guilty of conspiring to build a weapon of mass destruction and of eight counts of involuntary manslaughter of federal officers.[100] After he received the sentence on June 4, 1998 of life-without-parole, the State of Oklahoma in 2000 sought a death-penalty conviction on 161 counts of first-degree murder. On May 26, 2004 the jury found him guilty on all charges, but deadlocked on the issue of sentencing him to death. Presiding Judge Steven W. Taylor then determined the sentence of 161 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.[101] He is currently held in the ADX Florence Federal Prison.[102]

Though Michael Fortier was considered an accomplice and co-conspirator, he agreed to testify against McVeigh in exchange for a modest sentence and immunity for his wife.[103][88] He was sentenced on May 27, 1998 to twelve years in prison and fined $200,000 for failing to warn authorities about the attack.[101] As discussed by Jeralyn Merritt, who served on Timothy McVeigh's criminal defense team, on January 20, 2006, after serving eighty-five percent of his sentence, Fortier was released for good behavior into the Witness Protection Program and given a new identity.[104]

No "John Doe #2" was ever identified, nothing conclusive was ever reported regarding the owner of the missing leg, and the government never openly investigated anyone else in conjunction with the bombing. Though the defense teams in both McVeigh's and Nichols trials tried to suggest that others were involved, Judge Steven W. Taylor, who presided over the Nichols trial, found no credible, relevant, or legally admissible evidence of anyone other than McVeigh and Nichols as having directly participated in the bombing.[87]

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