So many of our American lives were changed by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. I’ve written of my own link to that day a decade ago and how our sense of security as a nation was forever changed.
On this bright, warm autumn day I was reminded that threats to our national security may be as likely to come from within our society as from abroad. My wife and I visited the Oklahoma City National Memorial where, preceding 9-11, the worst act of domestic terrorism happened on April 19th, 1995. It was the Oklahoma City bombing.
On that spring day 16 years ago, Timothy McVeigh detonated 4,800 pounds ammonium nitrate concealed in a parked Ryder truck outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The blast killed 168 people, injured 680 others, and damaged 324 buildings within a 16 block radius.
The bombing attack was planned by McVeigh, co-conspirators Terry Nichols and Michael and Lori Fortier as an act of revenge against the U.S. government’s handling of the 1992 FBI standoff with Randy Weaver at Ruby Ridge, Idaho and the 1993 standoff between the FBI and Branch Davidian members in Waco, Texas that ended with the burning and shooting deaths of Branch Davidian leader David Koresh and 75 of his followers.
It’s impossible for most Americans to find justification for the taking of innocent lives. I certainly can’t, although I do admit I have tried to imagine what could convince someone to do so. I found no thought, anger, frustration or hatred profound or deep enough to convince me of a reason to take the life of an innocent child, woman or man; much less the innocent life of a countryman, woman or child.
Looking for logical answers to explain such an act leaves me a bit confused and angry. I know there’s no logic to be found, no way to bring back the innocent lives taken, restore the families who lost sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, or imagine what punishment could be equal to the crime for those found guilty of committing it. And yet it happened. That this crime was committed by Americans makes it a greater betrayal.
All that’s left is a gaping hole in the soul of America. In Oklahoma City, an elegant, silent memorial marks the location where once a building stood, and people worked and played, and life seemed so normal until we learned it could never be again.