The Oklahoma City bombing: 2011

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.

The view looking west across the reflecting pool at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. The reflecting pool is flanked by two large gates. The gate on the east side of the memorial is inscribed with the time 9:01. The gate on the memorial's west end is inscribed with 9:03. The reflecting pool in between represents the moment of the blast at 9:02 a.m., April 19th, 1995. Photo: Barney McCoy

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.


Damage to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building by a terrorist bomb attack on April 19, 1995. Photo Credit: FEMA News Photo

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.

On the south side of the Oklahoma City National Memorial symbolic bronze and stone chairs represent each of the persons killed in the 1995 terrorist attack. Each chair represents the empty chairs at the dinner tables of the bombing victims' families. Photo: Barney McCoy

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.

The view looking towards the east gate at the Oklahoma City National Memorial. Photo: Barney McCoy


















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.


















About Bernard McCoy

My views are my own and not a reflection of my employer. I'm a professor of Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I've also been a working journalist for the past 29 years. I have covered news stories in war zones, reported on human and natural disasters, presidential conventions, a presidential inauguration and the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. My career experiences include work as an award-winning documentary producer, television news reporter, photographer, producer, and anchor. I worked at WIBW-TV, Topeka, KS., KCTV, Kansas City, MO, WKBD-TV, Detroit, MI., WILX-TV, Lansing, MI. and WBNS-TV, Columbus, OH. I have also worked as a contributing reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, Associated Press, CBS, CNN, the Ohio News Network and lecture at the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communications. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in telecommunications management from Michigan State University.
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