Monday, April 19, 2010

The Oklahoma City Bombing + 15; Remembering And Comments

There are days of our lives when something so shocking happens that many of the details are etched in your mind for the rest of your life, the date is something you can't forget, and the question "where were you when (fill in the blank)?" is always applicable.

Of course, September 11, 2001 is a date most of you reading this can recall in detail, as is November 22, 1963 for you born prior to and old enough to remember the murder of President Kennedy in Dallas. Of course, the aging Greatest Generation (like my Mom and Dad) can tell you everything about December 7, 1941, down to what the weather was like that day.

April 19, 1995 was a day that didn't change our world forever the way the dates I mentioned above did; what it did do is shock Americans because of its needless and outrageous carnage and shook any vestiges of American innocence; it was day the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was blown up by fanatical militia member Timothy McVeigh with an assist from co-conspirator Terry Nichols. The death toll was 168 people, most employees in the building; 19 little children under the age of six were among the victims. They were attending a day care center in the building.

April 19, 1995 was a special day in our family; it was my maternal grandmother's birthday. Grandma turned 88 that day- we planned a small celebration with cake and a special meal for dinner. She was unable to travel at that point, and she was starting to show more advanced signs of dementia. I cut some of activities short that day, and spent the morning with her, making sure she had a good breakfast and was able to see her birthday cards.

It was sunny and cool that day (much like today). While spending the morning with Grandma I put on the TV, and began watching a documentary on HBO. That program was a segment of Shoah, which was about the Holocaust, told by middle aged and elderly people who survived extermination. If you've decided to follow the link to the IMDB page about Shoah, it will tell you documentary is over nine hours long, and it is emotionally draining. After watching for about an hour and a half, I did feel like I had been through a ringer; I decided to change the channel. On what was supposed to be a joyous day, I felt a need to escape from the horrors of a half a century before.

So I started channel surfing, and stopped at CNN. It was just after 11 AM. Minutes after escaping depictions of the horrors perpetrated by Nazi Germany I was witnessing death and destruction courtesy of our own home grown fanatics. Shocking, sickening, maddening- blind hatred of American government had taken 168 lives and seriously wounded many more. The ultimate horror was seeing first responders taking the broken lifeless bodies of little children out of the rubble.

I remember thinking "what kind of goddamn monster could have done this?" And like many, my first thought was of international terrorists, like the ones who attempted to blow up the World Trade Center with bombs in 1993; Muslim extremists must have done this.

But hours later, a crew cut twenty something young man was arrested and made to take a perp walk before TV cameras and the press- the boos were loud, and I think that even the most dispassionate and objective reporter watching Timothy McVeigh walk by could have been overcome by rage to want to strangle this twisted being.

There he was, Tim McVeigh. He could have been the kid working at the hardware store, or your plumber, your auto mechanic, the guy who sits next you in church.

Looking back on those days its remarkable how little things have changed regarding the harsh rhetoric heard directed towards the government; in fact, it seems to have intensified, and has become more mainstreamed and better funded. The advent of the internet has organized extremist groups to a degree unimaginable in 1995.

But to me what is most disturbing is that all too often the "fanners of the flames" are not merely the usual AM radio gasbags or FOX NEWS "pundits". Some of those who seem to be doing their best to delegitimize the Obama administration and reduce them to the level as "The Others" are elected members of Congress and some who are seeking elected office; Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, Steve King, and Paul Broun...birthers, deathers, truthers, icons of the Tea Party Movement. These people, and others like them, are exercising their rights to speak freely but in doing so too often speak irresponsibly...and the unrest they stir may have dire consequences. The militia movement has doubled, so have gun sales, and so have the lies that this President is a socialist who will strip America of its freedoms.

Its getting scary again. And I hope to God we never have to experience another Oklahoma City.


Sue said...

That picture just kills me! I forget, did the baby live?

Very nicely written post Hugh. I don't recall the day and what I was doing like with 9/11. What a horrific turn of events, the murderer walking past the public, looking straight ahead with a stone cold look on his face, not an ounce of feeling. But when his lawyer started prepping him for trial they would show him laughing, so as to portray him as kindhearted I guess. What a monster!!

Hugh Jee From Jersey said...

Sue- I remember the details of the bombing like yesterday. Grandma's birthday and I'm getting depressed watching SHOAH...change the channel and then on CNN there's the image of a blasted away building, and dead and dying men, women, and children.

I think tonight on MSNBC Rachel's going to have a special, The McVeigh Tapes.

To be honest, I'm not sure if I want to watch it, or even see that SOB again.

Hugh Jee From Jersey said...

Sue, I forgot to answer your question.

The little girl's name was Baylee Almon.

The previous day she celebrated her first was her last. She died shortly after the picture was taken.

I just saw her picture at the site, and it broke my heart again.

Sue said...

OH I remember the babys name now. God Bless her little heart. It's so sad, I can't watch tonight, it's so representative of whats going on today and it all makes me sick.

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