Most crimes have a reason we can all at least understand. But there are some cases in the spectrum of 20th century crime where a very large scale crime is pulled off for mysterious reasons. We know why people rob banks or even do burglary. Most murders have some grounds in a personal dispute or as part of execution of the crime. Even drug related crimes are rational in a way because we know why people take drugs and why that lifestyle can lead to criminal behavior.
But on April 19, 1995, a horrific crime took place that was so huge and at the time it seemed so senseless that it shocked and confused us as a nation. That was when two American citizens committed a crime so terrible and destructive of human life and property that it can only be described as domestic terrorism. That crime was the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which resulted in tremendous loss of life and that so damaged the building that it finally had to be taken down.
Now that we know who perpetrated the crime, how they did it and why, there were reasons that Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols had for striking out like that. We now know that it was McVeigh who in his own twisted way rationalized the killing of hundreds of people including children. We now know that McVeigh was infuriated by what happened in Waco Texas in the confrontation between the Branch Davidians and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, the ATF. It was McVeigh’s desire to get revenge for how that tragedy ended when so many died as the ATF stormed the complex to try to save the children.
McVeigh sought to take life to avenge the loss of life in Waco. His preparations were careful and meticulous. As early as September of the year before he began compiling the components of a massive bomb including a large amount of ammonium nitrate in the form of fertilizer. He used his property in Herington, Kansas to put together the ingredients he needed for a very large bomb.
McVeigh and Nichols began their horrid crime in April 17th when they rented a Ryder truck and turned it into one huge bomb. On April 19, timed to coincide with the Waco tragedy, the two domestic terrorists drove the truck to Oklahoma City and put it in place after the building was full of employees and even children in the day care center. When the bomb went off, it shattered windows miles away and for all intents and purposes reduced the Murrah building to rubble. When the final casualty count was completed days later, 168 people died that way.
McVeigh and Nichols got away for a short time. But the trail that the criminals left was not hard for the FBI to track down. McVeigh was captured, tried and executed for his crimes on June 11, 2001 and Nichols is jailed with little chance of getting out. He has plenty of time to think about how he and McVeigh committed the greatest act of domestic terrorism in the history of 20th century crime.
Combined with 911, these two horrendous attacks changed the culture in this country and made us more aware that we can be attacked with terrible consequences. While it is a sobering thought to know we are vulnerable, it will make us stronger and wiser in how we protect ourselves against horrible attacks by the likes of Osama Bin Ladin and Timothy McVeigh.