The heartbeats of hundreds of Oklahoma City citizens raced madly, pumping harder and harder as each individual approached the source of an unprecedented blast that violently shook the capital of Oklahoma at 9:02 am on April 19, 1995. A large dark cloud of smoke rose high into the morning atmosphere. Car alarms sang frantically for miles in all directions. The unknown of what had just occurred lingered in the minds of all Oklahoma City's people. Was an earthquake bringing destruction upon the city, or had a gas pipeline accidentally exploded underground? Or, had a terrorist attack occurred? The only know fact at this time presented itself as a horrific noise vibrating through the streets of Oklahoma City. The actual truth behind the morning of April 19, 1995 unfortunately would come to change the lives of many Americans forever. To our beloved country's dismay, we would soon find out that one of our own had turned against us, resulting in the deadliest terrorist attack in United States history.
The facts of this event are simple, yet cringing. But, to understand the meaning behind such a terrible action, one must first acknowledge the who, where, what, why and how, that effected all Americans in some way or another. One man's actions gave this coutry a bitter taste of fear at a time when everything else seemed to be going fine. In the spring of 1995 William Jefferson Clinton's presidency began its third year. The unemployment rate was 5.6% and the cost of a stamp was only thirty-two cents. O.J. Simpson's trial was underway, and in Oklahoma the high summer temperatures were just beginning to rise. This simple, easy-going life for Oklahomans seemed normal for the setting. However, this crazy man's anger and hostile feelings toward American government exhibited its full force with the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.
Why would a young twenty-seven year old American war veteran want, much less have the means of reason to set off a bomb in front of a federal government building? Timothy James McVeigh, a troubled and disturbed man, had a strong hate toward the American government and its ways of making and enforcing laws.
Timothy McVeigh spent his youth in a rural neighborhood near Buffalo, New York, known as Pendleton. Born on April 23, 1968, his life as a young American male commenced just like all the other average males in this country. His father and mother had two other children, both girls. As a middle child and the only boy, Timothy struggled to find his place where he fit-in best. Timothy McVeigh's father worked for a local General Motors manufacturing plant, while Mrs. McVeigh was a travel agent. Their marriage struggled, eventually ending in divorce in 1984.
Growing up in a town with a population of less then six thousand and predominantly white, did not allow easy access to the diverse outside world. In Timothy's high school years, he stood out as: thin, quiet and shy. Timothy involved himself in sports such as football and track, but his commitment to these teams was short-lived. All through high school his shyness and poor commitment became a catalyst for few friends and zero dating experiences. Timothy unfortunately lived the life of a loner. After graduating from high school in 1986, Timothy to enrolled in a two-year business college. Just like his extra-curricular functions in high school, Timothy dropped out shortly. Living at home and working at Burger King was the only life Timothy knew at the time.
Timothy however did enjoy one particular pastime. His interest in guns and other weapons flourished throughout his teenage years. Timothy's grandfather gave him his first rifle at the age of thirteen, setting off a chain reaction. Timothy became obsessed with gun magazines and other similar sources regarding weaponry. He began receiving more and more gun related magazines into his teen years as his passion for arms grew more and more. Timothy obtained his handgun permit in 1987 at the age of nineteen. He soon accumulated several other various guns as time went on. His enjoyment of shooting and collecting firearms would eventually lead to larger and more destructive hobbies.
Another hobby Timothy McVeigh developed can be seen as very unusual. Timothy stockpiled firearms, food, water and other supplies for the purpose of a potential fall in society. He obviously felt the need to be prepared for any unexpected circumstance. His faith in society as a whole was weak; therefore, this drove him to eventually turn against society and government. But, before Timothy McVeigh completely disowned society and especially the United States government, he joined the Army. He enlisted in the United States Army in Buffalo, New York during May of 1988. His basic training took place at Fort Benning, Georgia, but Timothy was eventually reassigned to Fort Riley, Kansas. He enjoyed the army and all that it had to offer. Timothy could be around guns and armor all day long, fulfilling his obsession. He continued to read the gun magazines, while his fellow soldiers were socializing at night. He was seen as an outsider, but still a good and studious soldier. He served a short time during the Persian Gulf War in 1991, but left in order to try out for the Special Forces. The Special Forces was too much for Timothy to handle and the harsh difficulty of being involved forced him to quit. After three and a half years Timothy was back living at home with his father.
Timothy began to turn against the American government after his time in the army. After reading the “Turner Diaries”, a story about a racist group taking over the government, Timothy was hooked on the message of `anti-government”. There is evidence that Timothy felt strongly against taxes, gun control and other government related regulations. He moved around for a while, living in cars and rundown trailer parks. He always kept guns around his house and even in the car. Timothy also could be linked to racial groups that advocated pro white-power. All of this negative behavior drove Timothy McVeigh to build up even more angry courage to carry out what became the deadliest domestic terrorist attack in the United States history. The sad and devastating story behind the Oklahoma City bombing would bury itself into the hearts and minds of all Americans for years to come.
In Junction City, Kansas, only about two hundred and seventy miles from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, there is a Ryder truck rental dealership. Timothy McVeigh contacted Terry Nichols, a friend and former military colleague to provide him transportation from Oklahoma City to Junction City, Kansas on April 16, 1995. On the next day, April 17, 1995 a man giving the name of “Robert Kling” filed the papers to rent a large yellow Ryder truck at Elliott's Body Shop, paying the $281 in cash. The clerk at Elliott's Body Shop remembered there being a second male individual with “Robert Kling”, however, this male remained unidentified. After renting the Ryder truck, the men checked into the Dreamland Motel in Junction City, Kansas, but this time under the identity of “Timothy McVeigh.”
It is know for several months prior to the bombing on April 19, 1995, McVeigh and Nichols had been spending their dollars purchasing large quantities of ammonium nitrate. Terry Nichols learned how to use ammonium nitrate for bomb making purposes while growing up on a farm in Michigan. Nichols' knowledge regarding ammonium nitrate (fertilizer) mixed with fuel enabled him to assist McVeigh with the construction of a bomb. McVeigh and Nichols stored the ammonium nitrate and other bomb making materials inside a storage shed in Herington, Kansas. The storage shed also contained guns, bomb detonators, plastic drums and antigovernment brochures. Timothy's preparation and thoughtful planning was finally over. He and Nichols loaded the custom-made bomb of ammonium nitrate and nitro-methane into the back of the Ryder truck.
Timothy knew exactly what he intended to accomplish! On the morning of April 19, 1995 Timothy drove the yellow Ryder truck loaded with the five thousand pound bomb to Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Feelings of anger and hate absorbed Timothy's mindset as he approached his target. So, what had pushed Timothy McVeigh over the edge? Two years prior to April 19, 1995 in Waco, Texas, a standoff between a religious group and government federal agents had taken place. On April 19, 1993 the federal agents forcefully removed illegal weapons and freed hostages from the Branch Davidians' complex. This attack resulted in the deaths of eighty-five Branch Davidians and four government agents. Timothy McVeigh's feelings toward government interaction involving the Waco incident infuriated him, prompting retaliation.
Truck loaded and intentions set, Timothy McVeigh continued onto Oklahoma City, where the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building stands at 200 North West 5th Street. Having opened in 1977, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building held government offices for: Social Security, FBI, ATF, DEA, HUD, Credit Unions, United States Army Recruiting and many other various government divisions. The nine story concrete structure also held the America's Kids Daycare Center, providing childcare services for working moms and dads. The approximate five hundred government employees who were coming to work that April 19th morning carried on as usual. Outside, the morning weather was overcast with a temperature of forty-eight degrees Fahrenheit.
Men, women, mothers and fathers proceeded on with their hectic morning schedule, no different from any other day. Florence Rogers, an employee of the Credit Union held a meeting with other staff members. (Sherrow 8) Richard E. William, the head of operations at the Murrah building went around checking elevators, light fixtures, heating/air-conditioning systems, bathrooms and other maintenance requirements. Gale Hunt, an administrator in the Housing and Urban Development office (HUD) paused to make a phone call to a friend regarding an upcoming wedding. Local citizens were already lining up at the various offices within the building to receive whatever service needed. . Ashley Treanor, age four, accompanied her grandparents to the Murrah building for their appointment that morning. Mothers and fathers embraced their precious children at America's Kids Daycare as each parent signed their child in. Dozens of children, including four-year-old Josh, whose mother was in a rush to get to work, were beginning their play day. No one worried about the yellow Ryder truck parked on the street, just in front of the building.
At 9:02 am on Wednesday April 19, 1995 Timothy's McVeigh's bomb exploded. The massive force behind the blast vibrated sound waves for miles around Oklahoma City. Individuals in their homes and office quarters felt the impact of the blast for several miles in every direction. “Glass from the surrounding buildings became flying missiles, shooting out in all directions, striking and injuring unprotected pedestrians on the street below.” (Marcovitz 24) Cars near the blast seemed weightless as they became tossed around and torn apart. Massive amounts of debris, consisting of metal, concrete and glass launched through the air. The incredible earsplitting noise echoed throughout the streets of Oklahoma City
Timothy's McVeigh's target, the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building absorbed the majority of the blast. Fist, hot-incinerating gas pushed outward at eight thousand feet per second. Any persons or vehicles out in front of the Murrah Federal Building became slammed with a force equal to thirty-four tons. Some individuals vaporized, while dozens of vehicles became twisted burning heaps of metal. “Insistently, the hot gas evaporated, forming a vacuum, therefore causing the oxygen to be sucked from the air.” A bright flash also pierced the downtown morning atmosphere, resulting in a dark cloud of ash and smoke rising high into the sky. Aggressively shaking, the ground below felt as if a large-scale earthquake struck the city. The front north face of the Murrah Federal Building appeared as if a monster clawed it away. The nine-story structure seemed hardly recognizable, for one third of the Murrah building no longer existed.
Jim Cummins, a reporter for NBC news recalls his personal account and feelings toward the breaking news event around the Oklahoma City bombing. “I remember standing in front of the blaze that killed more than 80 men, women and children in Waco like it was yesterday. I remember looking at the mangled face of the front of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City two years later and wondering: could the two events be related? Nobody knew for certain who was responsible for the bombing or why it happened. Panic ensued. Rescue efforts were hampered and within hours we were told it was likely there were no more victims to be rescued. The recovery effort began.” (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7558809/)
As tons of concrete, metal, glass and other debris flooded the streets of downtown Oklahoma City, survivors both in, near, and blocks away began to appear. Scared, cut, bleeding and broken, people emerged. Some individuals having broken arms, missing fingers and severe lacerations from flying glass and debris, gazed with shock.
Cars halted in the middle of the surrounding streets, as their passengers got out to observe what had just happened. In awe, dozens began to walk toward the Murrah Federal Building. Those of who realized that there were friends and or family in the building ran through the streets toward the sickening sight. Shocked, speechless and stunned, survivors immediately started helping the injured. Victim's clothes were shredded and bloody, but no one cared, the only aim seemed to be, help the severely injured and look for survivors in the rubble. One mother at the seen of the strike had just dropped of her son at the America's Kids Daycare. She desperately wanted to go in after her son, but how? The setting would be way to dangerous. Rescue workers began arriving in police cars, fire engines and ambulances to give what aid they could. Overwhelmed and stunned, medics and search teams continued to work frantically, doing whatever possible to find more survivors, while tending to the injured.
The children's daycare center made the situation even sadder. The cry of helpless babies and toddlers could be heard over the sirens and tears. Helena Garrett, a courtroom witness quoted, “They started bringing our babies out in those sheets and they laid them by my feet. They started making a line of them.'' Scenes like this carried through the long hours of recovery.
Search attempts continued for day and the Federal Bureau of Investigation launched the largest man-hunt investigation in United States history. Hundreds of federal agents began looking for any clues that would lead to a suspect. Just days into the investigation, breaking news emerged. Debris from a truck was found that had a serial number. This serial number led investigators back to the Ryder rental shop in Junction City, Kansa. Timothy McVeigh's name eventually appeared. During this same time, soon after the explosion, Timothy McVeigh's get away car caught the attention of a patrol officer. The car did not have a license plate. A weapon was also found inside the car. This misdemeanor eventually became linked to FBI investigations, and Timothy McVeigh received charges for the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma on April 19, 1995.