Oklahoma City Bombing



The Oklahoma City bombing was a terrorist attack on April 19, 1995, in which the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, a U.S. government office complex in downtown Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, was destroyed, killing 168 people. It is the deadliest domestic terrorist attack in the history of the United States and was the deadliest act of terrorism within U.S. borders until September 11, 2001. Two men later convicted of the bombing, Timothy McVeigh and his friend Terry Nichols, had sympathies with the anti-government militia movement. McVeigh later claimed that his aim was to avenge the Waco Siege.

At 9:02 a.m. CDT on Wednesday, April 19, 1995, in the street in front (the north side) of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building, a rented Ryder truck containing about 5,000 pounds (2,300 kg) of explosive material exploded. The truck bomb was composed of ammonium nitrate, an agricultural fertilizer, and nitromethane, a highly volatile motor-racing fuel—a mixture also known as Kinepak or ANFO (ammonium nitrate/fuel oil). The effects of the blast could even be felt in Bridge Creek, which is about 30 miles away from the Murrah Building. However it should be noted that not everyone accepts this explanation and a variety of Oklahoma City bombing conspiracy theories exist. The official name of the FBI investigation into the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building is OKBOMB.

Timothy McVeigh's court-appointed attorney, Steven Jones, summarized the initial rush to blame the Oklahoma City Bombing on Muslim terrorists while arguing for a motion to review CIA investigations following the blast,

"The Chicago Tribune reported that the CIA spokesman had acknowledged on the record that the agency is involved in the search. There is a description that the car bombs that were used at the Murrah building are favored by Islamic fundamentalists. It discusses in Exhibit B that Oklahoma City has an Islamic Center and the state is home to about 5,000 Muslims. It goes on to say that a television documentary linked Oklahoma City to an Islamic fundamentalist network operating out of New Jersey, Chicago and Texas. Mr. Steven Emerson, a terrorism expert and executive producer of "Jihad in America" said -- and I don't think there is any question Mr. Emerson is an expert on terrorism -- that Oklahoma City has been the venue for several Islamic conventions, including one in 1992 where 6,000 people cheered calls for killing of Jews and infidels. This meeting, incidentally, took place four blocks from the Murrah building.

"The Daily Telegraph, a London newspaper of record, says the Federal Bureau of Investigation has called on the Central Intelligence Agency to search its international sources for possible leads among foreign terrorist groups. The agencies' counter-terrorism center has issued a directive to all CIA stations to help in this case. Mr. Emerson, who has been investigating extremists committed to Jihad, holy war, since the Trade Center bombing says elaborate support and recruiting center networks have been set up with branches in at least 38 states."

Within 90 minutes of the explosion Timothy McVeigh, a Gulf War veteran, was arrested, travelling north out of Oklahoma City on Interstate 35 near Perry in Noble County, after being pulled over for driving without a license plate by an Oklahoma State Trooper. At McVeigh's trial, the United States Government asserted that the motivation for the attack was to avenge the Waco Siege and Ruby Ridge. McVeigh called the casualties in the bombing "collateral damage" and compared the bombing to actions he had taken during the Gulf War. The attack was staged on the second anniversary of the Waco incident. McVeigh is thought to have modeled the bombing on a similar event described in The Turner Diaries, a white supremacist novel that was found with McVeigh when he was arrested. Some have suggested that the date was purposely chosen in these instances as it coincides with the beginning of the American Revolutionary War and the final attack on the Branch Davidians at Waco. The effect of the bombing on the city was immense. Beyond the death toll - 168 confirmed dead including 19 children and one rescue worker, plus an unidentified leg indicating a possible 169th victim - the bomb injured over 800 people and destroyed or damaged more than 300 buildings in the surrounding area, leaving several hundred people homeless and shutting down offices in downtown Oklahoma City. Over 12,000 people participated in relief and rescue operations in the days following the blast, many of whom developed post-traumatic stress disorder as a result. Although all area hospitals received victims of the blast, the majority were taken to St. Anthony Hospital, closest to the blast area. The national and worldwide humanitarian response was immediate and overwhelming, as was the media response. The area was flooded with rescue workers from around the nation and aid agencies coming to assist the survivors, as well as hundreds of news trucks coming to cover the story. Many immediate news stories hypothesized that the attack had been undertaken by Middle Eastern terrorists.

The national focus climaxed on April 23, when President Bill Clinton spoke in Oklahoma City. In the weeks following the bombing, rescue efforts ceased, the building was imploded, and media interest shifted to the trials of Timothy McVeigh and one of his accomplices, Terry Nichols, and a continuing search for an additional suspect named John Doe 2, who was seen with McVeigh but did not look like Terry Nichols ("John Doe No. 2; A Dragnet Leads Down One More Blind Alley" by John Kifner, New York Times June 8, 1995).

Shortly after the incident, President Clinton criticized radio talk show hosts. "They spread hate. They leave the impression that, by their very words, violence is acceptable." Clinton did not mention anyone by name, but later singled out the radio host G. Gordon Liddy (who had told his listeners to shoot federal ATF officers, who had illegally entered their homes, in the head rather than the chest because they wear bullet proof vests).

Schools across the country were dismissed early and ordered closed in the wake of the bombing. The fact that 19 of the victims had been children, most of them in the building's day care center, was seized upon by the national media. A photograph of firefighter Chris Fields removing infant Baylee Almon (who later died in a nearby hospital) from the rubble was reprinted worldwide and soon became a symbol of the tragedy. The photo, taken by utility company employee Charles H. Porter IV, earned the 1996 Pulitzer Prize for Spot News Photography.

In addition to the children with a direct connection to the bombing, others became distressed after hearing media reports and later research established that many showed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder.

In the first two days after the bombing, President Clinton and his wife, Hillary, were very concerned about how children were reacting to the bombing. They asked aides to talk to child care experts about what to tell them about the bombing. On the Saturday after the bombing, April 22, the Clintons gathered children of employees of federal agencies that had offices in the Murrah Building in the Oval Office and answered their questions.

The remains of the half-destroyed Federal building were demolished in May 1995. Some legislation was also introduced in response to the attack, notably the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. Until the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Oklahoma City bombing was the worst act of terrorism within U.S. borders, but not the worst against the United States (the worst act of terrorism against the U.S. before the Oklahoma City bombing was Pan Am Flight 103). The site became part of the National Park Service. On February 19, 2001 an Oklahoma City bombing museum was dedicated at the Oklahoma City National Memorial Center.

"In the largest criminal case in U.S. history, FBI agents conducted 28,000 interviews and collected 3.5 tons of evidence and almost 1 billion pieces of information in the Oklahoma City bombing case."

Michael Fortier, an accomplice and key informant, was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined $200,000 on May 27, 1998 for failing to warn authorities about the attack. He was released for good behavior on January 20, 2006.

Timothy McVeigh was sentenced to death for the bombing after being convicted of, among other things, murdering federal law enforcement officials. He was executed by lethal injection at a U.S. penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on June 11, 2001. An accomplice, Terry Nichols, was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of manslaughter in a federal court trial. Nichols stood trial in McAlester, Oklahoma, on state murder charges starting on March 1, 2004 and was convicted of 160 counts of first-degree murder plus other felony charges on May 26. The penalty phase of the state trial, in which he could have been given the death penalty, ended in a jury deadlock. He was sentenced to 160 consecutive life-without-parole sentences by the Presiding Judge Steven W. Taylor.

In many ways the Oklahoma City bombing spelled the end of the anti-government militia movement to which McVeigh was linked. In the years following the bombing most such groups either disbanded or were pushed farther to the fringes of American politics. Additionally, by being the first major American city to suffer a mass-casualty terrorist attack, Oklahoma City's response to the bombing was carefully scrutinized by security experts and law enforcement in the years following the bombing, and then again following the September 11, 2001 attacks.

In the weeks immediately after the Oklahoma City bombing the federal government surrounded federal buildings in all major cities with prefabricated Jersey barriers to ward off similar attacks. Most of these temporary barriers have since been replaced with permanent security barriers which look more attractive and are driven deep into the ground (so that they are more sturdy). All new federal buildings must furthermore be constructed with truck-resistant barriers and with deep setbacks from surrounding streets to minimize their vulnerability to truck bombs.

In February, 2004 the federal government reopened their investigation into the bombing after FBI agents investigating the MidWest Bank Robbers (a white supremacist gang McVeigh had associated with prior to the bombing) discovered blasting caps of the same type used in the Oklahoma City bombing. Later in 2004, at the Terry Nichols state bombing trial, Judge Taylor found there to be no credible, relevant, or legally admissible evidence of any persons other than McVeigh and Nichols having directly participated in the bombing of the Murrah federal building.

In 2004, a new federal campus (designed with a special focus on security) opened in Oklahoma City, a block from the site of the bombing.

According to Mark Potok, the director of Intelligence Project at the Southern Poverty Law Center, law enforcement officials authorities have foiled 60 domestic terror plots since the Oklahoma City bombing. They were prevented due to measures established by the local and federal government to increase security of high-priority targets and following up on hate groups located within the United States.

In 2006, congressman Dana Rohrabacher said that the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations of the U.S. House Committee on International Relations, which he chairs, would investigate whether the Oklahoma City bombers had assistance from foreign sources.

The site of the Murrah building is occupied today by a large memorial. This memorial, designed by Oklahoma City architects Hans and Torrey Butzer and Sven Berg, includes a reflecting pool flanked by two large 'doorways', one inscribed with the time 9:01, the opposite with 9:03, the pool between representing the moment of the blast. On the south end of the memorial is a field full of symbolic bronze and stone chairs—one for each person lost, arranged based on what floor they were on. The chairs represent the empty chairs at the dinner tables of the victim's family. The seats of the children killed are smaller than those of the adults lost. On the opposite side is the 'survivor tree', part of the building's original landscaping that somehow survived the blast and the fires that followed it. The memorial left part of the foundation of the building intact, so that visitors can see the scale of the destruction. Around the western edge of the memorial is a portion of the chain link fence erected after the blast on which thousands of people spontaneously left flowers, ribbons, teddy bears, and other mementos in the weeks following the bombing.

On a corner adjacent to the memorial is a sculpture titled "And Jesus Wept" erected by St. Joseph's Catholic Church. St. Joseph's, one of the first brick and mortar churches in the city, was almost completely destroyed by the blast. The statue is not part of the memorial itself but is popular with visitors nonetheless. North of the memorial is the Journal Record Building which now houses the Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum, an affiliate of the National Park Service. Also in the building is the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, a non partisan think tank.

From April 17 to 24, 2005, to mark the tenth anniversary of the bombing in Oklahoma City, the Oklahoma City National Memorial held a weeklong series of events known as the "National Week of Hope."

On April 19, 2005, the tenth anniversary of the bombing, as in the past years, the observances began with a service at 09:02 CDT, marking the moment the bomb went off, with the traditional 168 seconds of silence - one second for each person who was killed as a result of the blast. The service also included the traditional reading of the names. As on the 9th anniversary children read the names of those killed because they symbolized the future of Oklahoma City.

Vice President Dick Cheney, former president Clinton, Oklahoma Governor Brad Henry, former Oklahoma governor Frank Keating, and other political dignitaries attended the service and gave speeches in which they emphasized that "goodness overcame evil" on April 19, 1995, and has done so since. The relatives of the victims and the survivors of the blast also made note of it during the service at First United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City.

President George W. Bush made note of the anniversary in a written statement, part of which echoes his remarks on the execution of Timothy McVeigh in 2001: "For the survivors of the crime and for the families of the dead the pain goes on." Bush was invited but did not attend the service because he was en route to Springfield, Illinois to dedicate the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. Vice President Cheney presided over the service in his place.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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