Oklahoma City bombing

From Academic Kids

Damage to the Murrah building before cleanup began.
Damage to the Murrah building before cleanup began.

The Oklahoma City bombing was a 1995 terrorist attack 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 was the largest domestic terrorist attack in the history of the United States.


The bombing

At 9:02 AM local time on Wednesday, April 19, 1995, in the street in front of the Murrah building, a rented Ryder truck containing about 5,000 lb (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. Timothy McVeigh, a Gulf war veteran, was arrested by an Oklahoma Highway Patrolman within an hour of the explosion after being pulled over for not having a license plate.

At McVeigh's trial, the United States Government asserted that the motivation for the attack was to avenge the deaths of Branch Davidians near Waco, Texas, who he believed had been murdered by agents of the federal government. 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. It should be noted that April 19 was also the date of the fatal shooting at Ruby Ridge. Some have suggested that the date was purposely chosen in all these instances as it coincides with the beginning of the American Revolutionary War and hence represents a date for bold action.

The effect of the bombing on the city was immense. Beyond the death toll of 168 (including 19 children and one rescue worker), the bomb injured over 800 people and destroyed or seriously damaged more than 300 buildings in the surrounding area, leaving several hundred people homeless and shutting down offices in downtown Oklahoma City. By some estimates, more than one-third of the nearly half-million residents of Oklahoma City knew someone who was killed or injured in the bombing. 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. 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.

The national focus climaxed on April 23rd, 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.

Effects on children

In the wake of the bombing, schools across the country were dismissed early and ordered closed. 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.[1] (http://www.pulitzer.org/year/1996/spot-news-photography/works/)

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. (See references).

In the first two days after the bombing, President Bill Clinton and his wife, Hillary, were very concerned about how children were reacting to the bombing. So, 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.

Presidential response

Shortly after the incident, President Bill Clinton criticized radio talk show hosts. "They spread hate. They leave the impression that, by their very words, that violence is acceptable." Clinton did not mention anyone by name, but later singled out another conservative 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).[2] (http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m1272/is_n2612_v124/ai_18274649)

Trial and aftermath

Missing image
Security photo from nearby building showing Ryder truck approaching the Federal building.

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 Terrorist 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 9/11 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.

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.

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, which automatically resulted in the imposition of a sentence of life imprisonment. His brother, James, was also accused of taking part in the bombing, but was released due to lack of evidence.

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 further 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 attacks of September 11, 2001.

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. In the decade since, most (but not all) of these temporary barriers have been replaced with permanent security barriers which look more attractive and are driven deep into the ground (so that they are more sturdy). Furthermore, all new federal buildings must 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.

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.

The Oklahoma City National Memorial

Missing image
Oklahoma City National Memorial

Main Article: Oklahoma City National Memorial

Today, the site of the Murrah building is occupied by a large memorial. The memorial, designed by Oklahoma City architects Hans and Torrey Butzer and Sven Berg, includes a reflecting pool bookended 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 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 on 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 totally 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 Smithsonian Institute. Also in the building is the National Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, a non partisan think tank.

Tenth anniversary

During the week of April 17 to 24, 2005, the Oklahoma City National Memorial held a series of events to mark the tenth anniversary of the bombing in Oklahoma City. The week was known as the "National Week of Hope." [3] (http://www.oklahomacitynationalmemorial.org/news_detail3019227.htm)

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

Vice-President Richard Cheney, former president Bill 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. [4] (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/04/20050419.html) 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. [5] (http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0504/19/lt.01.html) Clinton and Keating both had been invited to the service, because they both were in office at the time of the bombing.

President George W. Bush made note of the anniversary in a written statement. Part of his statement was what he said in 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." [6] (http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2005/04/20050419-2.html) He didn't attend the service, even though he was invited, because he was en route in Springfield, Ill., to dedicate the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum. In his place, Cheney presided over the service.

Conspiracy theories

  • That Osama Bin Laden is the prime suspect behind the bombing.
  • A number of observers have noted a striking resemblance between a police sketch of a person known as "John Doe 2", who was at one point sought in connection with the bombing, and alleged Al Qaida "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla [7] (http://www.whatreallyhappened.com/padillaJD2.html). Padilla is currently detained without charge in a South Carolina military prison.
  • Republic of the Philippines involved contact Timothy McVeigh on the bombing
  • John Gibson of FOX News has suggested that McVeigh was met by Ramzi Yousef, "an Iraqi agent", and shown how to build a bomb. FoxNews 19-04-05 (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,153966,00.html)
  • McVeigh was linked to various Neo-Nazi groups and may have been aided by one of the many white supremacist groups.
  • Films by U.S journalist Alex Jones allege that the US government was involved in orchestrating the bombing, to provide a pretext for subsequent "antiterrorist" laws (Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996) which would restrict constitutional rights, in much the same manner as the 1933 Reichstag Fire in Berlin was used to pass the autocratic Enabling Act, which granted dictatorial powers to Adolf Hitler.
  • That there were one or more other bombs used in addition to the truck containing the ANFO (fertilizer and fuel) explosive. Support for this theory comes from many people, including an Air Force General [8] (http://independence.net/okc/congressbombreport.htm), and eye-witnesses to the event [9] (http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,153635,00.html). Other local television sources in fact corroborate this detail, quoting bomb experts as saying that two undetonated devices were removed from the site, intended together with the first to topple the entire structure. Pyrotechnic experts have commented that a diesel-fertilizer explosive would have nowhere near adequate energy density to inflict the damage on the structure that resulted, suggesting McVeigh was indeed a patsy who simply believed himself acting independently.

See also

id:Pemboman Oklahoma City nl:Oklahoma City Bombing


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