The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on May 7, 2001 · Page 7
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 7

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Monday, May 7, 2001
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THE SALINA JOURNAL OKLAHOMA BOMBING MONDAY, MAY 7, 2001 Al McVeigh / Deeply angered by Waco FROM PAGE A1 America had encountered terrorists before — notably the World Trade Center bombing in lS93 — but this was different. This was not Islamic radicals. This was the boy next door. "We no longer had a feeling of invulnerability" said Jerrold Post, director of the political psychology program at George Washington University "We knew it can happen here, it may happen here, and it may happen again." What makes McVeigh even more baffling. Post said, is that he appears in some ways to be a regular guy "The fact that he seems indistinguishable from our neighbors when you look and talk to him — that adds an aura to him," Post said. "Even though he talks about collateral damage and comes across as heartless, he doesn't seem crazy. That, in itself, is troubling." 'He is not a monster' Much of McVeigh's life, in fact, has been quite ordinary • He was a scrawny kid from a broken home who loved comic books, "Star Trek" and fast cars. He grew up to be a fan of "The Simpsons" and "King of the Hill." A young man who longed for a serious romance. A soldier's soldier who dreamed of becoming a Green Beret and who, one former Army buddy said, had potential to be a general. "There are pieces of his life that are very sad to him," Burr said, especially not having a lasting relationship with a woman. "He cries frequently when he thinks about the people in Waco," Burr said. "There occasion- a^y are flickers of that depth of feeling about family members, about lost opportunities in life. ... He is not a monster." But his monstrous act still baffles some friends and neighbors, who wonder how a good kid and a proud soldier turned irito a terrorist. "It doesn't seem to, be Tim, the stories they tell," said Monsignor Paul Belzer of Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Pendleton, N.Y., where -McVeigh was confirmed and where his father still attends Mass. "He would have had to change his personality drastically That's possible. But I just don't think that he did." In interviews, and letters, McVeigh has drawn a map of the troubled road he followed to the Murrah building: • Disillusionment with the hunger and death that went hand-and-hand with America's success in the Gulf War. Anger over an assault-weapons ban. And two episodes that sent so- called "patriot" fringe groups into an uproai^ — the FBI standoff with White separatist Randy Weaver and his family at Riiby Ridge, Idaho, and the federal raid on the Branch Davidian' compound near Waco, Texas, that dnded in the fiery deaths of some 80 people. "In his view, this happened out of necessity," Burr said of the Oklahoriia bombing. "It was needed to prevent the future deaths of many many people at the hands of the U.S. government. He believed that totally" 'He won a place in my lieart' It would be hard to see many warning signs from McVeigh's childhood. Timothy James McVeigh grew up in Pendleton, a rural community about 20 miles north of Buffalo, a middle child siirrounded by two sisters. • His father, Bill, who worked at the same auto plant his father had, was a homebody who tended his garden and ran bin. go night at his church. His PENTAX mother, Mildred, a travel agent nicknamed Mickey, was more outgoing. Their troubled marriage ended when McVeigh was in high school. McVeigh was a mischievous, imaginative kid: He set up a skateboard ramp in his driveway and a haunted house in his basement (he charged admission) and organized flashlight tag games in the neighborhood. "He had a very gentle way with little kids, and he always had a great love of animals," said Liz McDermott, a former nextdoor neighbor who remembers McVeigh's two cats, Tough Clyde and Shakespeare — in honor of the April 23 birthday he shared with the bard. McVeigh was an attentive baby-sitter for McDermott's kids. "He got right into it — and the refrigerator," she said. "He always had a voracious appetite. "He had a special twinkle in his eye. He certainly won a place in my heart." In high school, McVeigh was bright enough to win a modest scholarship, but his grades were unremarkable. In his yearbook, he listed his future plans: "Take it as it comes, buy a Lam- ' borghini, California girls." - By the time he graduated, McVeigh had a growing interest in survivalism and guns. He and a pal bought 10 acres of land near Buffalo to use as a shooting range. A short stint at a junior college ended in frustration, and McVeigh became a security guard for an armored car service, once showing up in bandoliers. A soldier's soldier In May 1988, a month after he turned 20, he enlisted in the Army In basic training at Fort Benning, Ga., he met Terry Nichols, a failed farmer from Michigan who embarked on his new life by joining the Army at the improbable age of 33. They quickly found a mutual love of guns and a shared resentment toward any government interference, particularly when it came to restrictions on bearing arms. Despite that seeming contradiction, McVeigh became by all accounts a model soldier — tough, strong, dedicated. "He was a standout individual," said Maj. Terry Guild, who served as McVeigh's platoon commander briefly after the Gulf War "When I knew him, you would have never questioned his loyalty or his integrity or his duty" McVeigh seemed to find himself in the Army His uniform was always dry-cleaned and pressed. He was always the first to show up for work details and the one who worked hardest. "He was really into being committed to the military probably more than the rest of us," said Sheffield Anderson, who served in the same 1st Infantry Division at Fort Riley Kan. "He was very professional. Ninety percent of us thought of doing three years and getting out. He was the one you saw one day as becoming a general." McVeigh shunned the drinking and carousing of other soldiers and instead showed an entrepreneurial streak, lending them money at high interest rates and supplying a "taxi service" that drove them home from the bars. "I know I'm not showing emotion, but I'm a professional and this had to be done." Timotliy McVeigh quoted by Lou Michel, author of "American Terrorist" PATIO Furniture MADE IN USA SUNFLOWER 823-7512 1125E.Cranrforil| Your Hearing Aid could be this small! 827-8911 1-800-448-0215 y \/\hEARiNq Healthcare Associates' 234 S. Santa Fe. Salina Budding survivalist But there seemed to be two Tim McVeighs: The disciplined, super-efficient soldier who became a sergeant within 21/2 years and the budding survivalist who believed some kind of doomsday was on the way and rented a storage locker to stockpile supplies. "He thought there was going to be a catastrophe and you had to be ready" said Dave Dilly, an Ohio corrections officer who was McVeigh's Army roommate for 11 months. "You had to have weapons, ammunition, food to last you, for a long time." McVeigh also began embracing the conspiracy teachings of extremist groups in which the federal government was the villain. He passed out copies of "The Turner Diaries," an ultra- right-wing fantasy novel about a clandestine paramilitary group that overthrows the government, attacking FBI headquarters in Washington, with the same kind of truck bomb that would rain death on Oklahoma City McVeigh's goal was to wear the Green Beret of the Army's elite Special Forces. He worked furiously to prepare himself As Dilly recalls, he would return to the barracks after a 12- hour workday change clothes and hike 15 miles carrying an 80-pound rucksack. Then more exercise, including 150 sit-ups. He would sleep three or four hours and begin again. Seven days a week. Disillusioned by war The war brought his compulsive training to a halt, but McVeigh excelled on the battlefield, too. As a top-notch gunner in a Bradley Fighting Vehicle, McVeigh was such a sure shot that Dilly still recalls with awe how he once killed an Iraqi soldier thousands of feet away But McVeigh was disturbed by what he encountered: Iraqis desperate to surrender, starving children, widespread destruction catised by American bombing. "He began to think he was working for the biggest bully in the world," said Lou Michel, a Buffalo, N.Y., newspaper reporter and co-author of "American Terrorist." McVeigh felt he had participated in a "terrible misdeed that had some genocidal qualities," Burr said, and soured on the military which had been the best part of his life. "It was where his talents and personality all came together," Burr said. "He had been struggling to find meaning in life before the Army and he found it there and lost it there. ... His passion about the government began to turn against the government." On returning home, McVeigh's tryout for the Special Forces ended abruptly when he quit after just two days, out of shape after months in the desert. His Army pals razzed him. "A lot of people say that was the turning point," said Royal Witcher, who was McVeigh's as­ sistant gunner and shared a house with him for six months. "But he was still focused and wanted to do well." Out of the Army and angry At the end of 1991, however, McVeigh mustered out. He returned to New York with a slew of commendations and medals, but could find work only as a security guard. In February 1992, his anger first became public with a letter to the Lockport (N.Y.) Union Sun & Journal railing about the decline of America, with its high crime and taxes. "Is a civil war imminent?" he wrote. "Do we have to shed blood to reform the current system? I hope it doesn't come to that, but it might." A year later, the siege at Waco so fired McVeigh's fury that he drove to the edge of the Branch Davidian compound, hawking anti-government bumper stickers. He was visiting the Michigan farm of Terry Nichols and his brother, James, when he watched the disastrous end on television. Waco became McVeigh's obsession. Burr said he knew all the names of the people who died there and details of their lives. "He has great empathy for them," the attorney said. McVeigh traveled back and forth between the Nichols' farm in Michigan and the Kingman, Ariz., mobile home of Michael Fortier, another Army buddy who had a "Don't Tread on Me" flag flapping outside in the desert wind. McVeigh also became a regular at weekend gun shows where conspiracy theories ran wild about black helicopters, the New World Order and the government taking away guns from its citizens. Plot against 'tlie evil empire' By the fall of 1994, McVeigh had hatched his bomb plot. . He chose the Oklahoma City federal building because it was an easy target. One night, he piled soup cans in the Fortier home to show how the barrels of explosives would be placed in the truck. Fortier testified at McVeigh's trial that McVeigh and Terry Nichols picked the building because they believed — mistakenly — it was where the orders were issued for Waco. McVeigh planned the attack for April 19, 1995, the second anniversary of Waco. 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Fortier also testified that McVeigh justified the large number of deaths by comparing the people to storm troopers in "Star Wars." "They may be individually innocent but, because they were part of the evil empire, they were guilty by association," he quoted McVeigh as saying. As time passed, McVeigh's wrath grew. Five months before the bombing, he sent a computer message to his younger sister, Jennifer, with whom he had a close relationship, saying federal agents would "swing in the wind one day" for their "treacherous actions against the Constitution." Three months later, he wrote a friend: "My whole mindset has shifted from intellectual to animal." The final preparations for the attack came the day before when, according to McVeigh's account in the "American Terrorist" book, he and Terry Nichols mixed and loaded thousand of pounds of explosives in the truck — the instrument of death. 'This had to be done' On April 19, as the 9 a.m. start of the workday approached, McVeigh drove to the glass-and-concrete federal building, pulled up to a drop-off point, lit the fuse and walked away Years later, when he acknowledged carrying out the bombing to the authors of "American Terrorist," he described in detail the final hours leading up to it. "He was very mechanical," said Michel, the co-author. "Several times he said, 'I know I'm not showing emotion, but I'm a professional and this had to be done.' " He also told the authors he never intended to kill children, and if he had known a day-care center was on the second floor, he "probably would have shifted the target." But his explanation had a chilling footnote: He said the public horror over the children's death distracted from his political message. Bodies were still being removed from the ruins when a state trooper stopped McVeigh's 1977 Mercury Marquis near Perry Okla. — 80 minutes after the bombing — for not having a rear license plate. He was carrying a loaded .45- caliber Glock pistol. He also was wearing a favorite T-shirt he bought at a gun show. One side featured a drawing of Abraham Lincoln and the words SIC SEMPER TYRAN- NIS — "Thus ever to tyrants" — uttered by Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth. The other side showed a tree with blood dripping from its branches and a quote from Thomas Jefferson: "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." Two days later, after the FBI traced the rental truck to McVeigh, America got its first glimpse of the bomber when he emerged from an Oklahoma jail, his face as blank as a mannequin. Someone in the crowd yelled "baby killer!" Timothy McVeigh didn't flinch. Now, six years later, Dave Dilly the former Army pal, tries to explain how the bombing perversely suited McVeigh's need for purpose in life. "He was looking for something to dedicate himself to — just like a lost soul," Dilly said. "He thinks he's a catalyst for a new revolution and in 100 years, he's going to be like Samuel Adams or Paul Revere. I think Tim wanted to be a : hero. His method for becoming a hero was taken away from him when he left the Army. This idea of overthrowing the government was his way" 'I am the captain of my sour In 1997, McVeigh was convicted by a jury and sentenced to death. With each passing year, he has not softened his defiance or his scorn. In a series of letters to a former Oklahoma reporter, some of which recently were' published in Esquire magazine, he talked mostly about favorite movies and television shows. But in one, he said: "I have nothing against the citizens of Oklahoma (except for the continuing woe-is-me crowd)'..." He also wrote Fox News that he had considered killing former Attorney General Janet Reno to avenge the Waco disaster, labeling the Oklahoma City bombing "an acceptable option." In April, McVeigh's father and sister Jennifer visited him in prison. Bill McVeigh told The Daily Oklahoman that his son declined to hug them when offered a chance, McVeigh, who has rejected further appeals, will be cremated and have no funeral. He is said to have chosen his final words from a 19th-century poem by William Ernest Henley that includes the famous lines: "I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul." With the execution just days away. Burr, the lawyer who grew to know McVeigh over the years, insists he is not the robotic killer hated by millions. "He is a full real human being with a full range of emotions," Burr said. "You would not expect such a human being to do something like this. That's what's so baffling and maddening to people trying to understand this." A Father's Urge ""Forgive, Lucky Dog Service In addition, holiday discounts will no longer be available. For more information, please call your AT&T representaUve at 1 800 222-0300. Bud Welch holds a photo of his daughter, Julie, taken shortly before her death in the April 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City. .ou are invited to hear Bud Welch tell his story. Mr.Welch is Catholic and he v/ill share his journey of faith after his daughter was killed in the Oklahoma City bombing. His own searching has led him to befriend MrTimothy McVeigh's father. He has shared his pain and hope all across the country and has agreed to come to Salina. Welch wrote in Time Magazine last June, "There's been enough bloodshed..".We don't need to have any more.To me the death penalty is vengeance, and vengeance doesn't really help anyone in the healing process. Of course, our first reaction is to strike back. But if we permit ourselves to think through our feelings, we might get to a different place...) think my daughter's position on this would be the same as mine." Thursday, May 10,7:00 p.m. St. Mary's Grade School All-Purpose Room 230 E. Cloud St., Salina

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