[Paleopsych] NYT: In Oklahoma, a Week of Remembrance

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In Oklahoma, a Week of Remembrance

[The NYT initial story on the bombing and the capture of the alleged 
bomber, now taken as a fact appended.]


    OKLAHOMA CITY, April 17 - The newest exhibit in the big museum here -
    the crown jewel, really - is a length of steel about eight feet long,
    ugly and twisted, its bulbous center rent by a nasty gash.

    "This is the prime piece we waited for," said Kari F. Watkins,
    executive director of the museum, the Oklahoma City National Memorial,
    pausing amid preparations for ceremonies this week marking the 10th
    anniversary of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
    "It is our prize possession."

    It is the axle of the Ryder rental truck, a 1993 Ford with a 20-foot
    body packed with 4,800 pounds of homemade nitrate fertilizer and fuel
    oil explosives, that Timothy J. McVeigh detonated at 9:02 on the sunny
    morning of April 19, 1995, killing 168 people, 19 of them children.
    The nation was stunned; it is still the worst act of domestic
    terrorism on American soil.

    "That piece is why we really got McVeigh," Ms. Watkins said, as
    workers, volunteers and visitors bustled about the memorial of empty
    bronze chairs on the site of the building - "sacred ground," it is
    called - and the adjacent museum, which chronicles the dreadful event
    in gripping detail.

    It was the vehicle identification number, PVA26077, stamped on the
    axle found a block away by local police, that led the Federal Bureau
    of Investigation to arrest Mr. McVeigh only moments before he was to
    be released from a small town jail 60 miles north on a minor traffic

    The bombing was devastating - "Oklahoma City will never be the same,"
    a reporter, Penny Owen, wrote on the front page of the next morning's
    Daily Oklahoman under a banner headline "Morning of Terror." But this
    is now a bustling place, with a spruced-up business district packed
    with new hotels, stadiums and a convention center; a renovated factory
    area called Bricktown attracting crowds to restaurants, bars and
    shops; and an annual arts festival, canceled the year of the bombing,
    now running alongside the weeklong memorial.

    "We designed this week to send a signal to the world that there is
    hope," Ms. Watkins said. The symbol of the memorial is the Survivor
    Tree, a once-scraggly American elm that had stubbornly grown in a
    parking lot across the street. A car's hood came to rest in its limbs,
    which were largely stripped by the blast, but a year later leaves
    reappeared. Today, as one of the centerpieces of the memorial, it is
    one of the world's most pampered trees, with an elaborate aeration and
    watering system.

    Tuesday, the anniversary of the bombing, will be a day of remembrance,
    with 168 seconds of silence and the reading of the names of the
    victims at 9 a.m., followed by a reunion and barbecue lunch for family
    members, survivors and rescuers in Bricktown. There are lectures and
    other events each day this week, with a concert on Friday night
    headlined by the country star Vince Gill and the fifth annual memorial
    marathon on Sunday, attracting some 12,000 runners.

    The anniversary will also be a national news event. CNN has promised
    all-day coverage on Tuesday along with other special programs. The
    network morning shows will have a presence, and Brian Williams is to
    anchor the NBC news from here. There are already some 600 journalists
    and technicians registered from 87 news outlets, and on the sidewalk
    alongside the memorial this weekend workers were banging together
    risers for television and still cameras.

    "This is the most we've had, including the execution, which I thought
    would be hard to top," said Ms. Watkins, speaking of the death of Mr.
    McVeigh on June 11, 2001. Terry L. Nichols, the other man indicted in
    the bombing, is serving life sentences on federal and state charges.

    For many residents here the site is intensely personal. An estimated
    387,000 people here, more than a third of the metropolitan area's
    population, knew someone who was killed or injured in the bombing, and
    some 190,000 people, 19 percent of the population, attended funerals
    for the victims. For relatives living here or scattered about the
    country, the memorial has become a place of pilgrimage.

    About 50 members of the extended family of Mickey B. Maroney, a Secret
    Service agent who died in the explosion, were here for a reunion and
    memorial on Saturday, gathered mostly from Texas by his daughter,
    Alice Ann, who was tearing but composed as hugs were exchanged. A
    half-dozen fellow agents, hardly secret in black suits and wraparound
    sunglasses, stood at the edge of the group, sharing the sorrow.

    "It's about all of us; it's about the journey we've taken the last 10
    years," said Jack O'Brian Poe, chaplain for Oklahoma City's police
    department at the time and now for the Secret Service field office.
    "It's not a journey we would have chosen.

    "It's painful, it's painful to do this," he went on, his right arm
    draped around the bronze chair bearing Mr. Maroney's name as if it
    were an old friend's shoulder. "This was some dark times. But we've
    seen the very best. We've seen America come together. We've seen
    Oklahoma City come together."

    It is that mixed message of sadness and hope the memorial is intended
    to project.

    The memorial is framed by two 13-ton yellow bronze monoliths called
    the Gates of Time, with the eastern entrance displaying the time 9:01,
    symbolizing the innocence before the bombing, and the western gate
    showing 9:03, the time of hurt and healing. In the center, what had
    been North Fifth Street has been turned into a shallow black
    reflecting pool.

    On the site of the building, a sloping lawn holds the 168 stylized
    chairs, bronze with frosted glass bottoms etched with the name of each
    victim, smaller ones for the children, illuminated from the bottom at
    night. Five of the chairs, for those killed near the Murrah Building,
    are slightly separate. The rest are arranged in nine rows, for the
    nine stories of the structure, and are placed roughly where the bodies
    were found. The area is planted with loblolly pines, which in a decade
    are expected to grow to 90 feet, symbolizing the nine stories. On the
    eastern side is the only remaining wall from the Murrah building, with
    the names of more than 800 survivors etched onto two granite blocks
    retrieved from the ruins.

    On the sidewalk outside is a remnant of the original "people's
    memorial," lengths of the chain-link fence that surrounded the
    wreckage. Spontaneously, the fence was decked with all manner of
    memorabilia, still periodically removed, catalogued and stored by
    museum curators. This weekend was typical: license plates, plastic
    children's toys, key rings, bandanas, military and police patches, an
    orange and white cheerleader's pompom, and for this occasion, several
    wreaths on portraits of victims.

    Across the street, at St. Joseph's Old Cathedral, stands a
    nine-foot-tall statue of a weeping Jesus. One block away is a monument
    of a different sort: the new federal office building, a fortress-like
    structure of stone walls and blast-resistant glass patrolled by
    Federal Protective Service officers. Scott Pascoe, a National Park
    Service official greeting visitors, proudly said the new structure had
    been ranked by an architectural magazine as "the fourth-safest
    building in the world."

    The museum where the Ryder truck axle is housed is in the 82-year old
    building of The Journal Record, a local business publication that had
    been across the street and whose damaged exterior, with a broken fire
    escape and scrawled messages from the rescuers, has been preserved.

    The exhibit tells how Mr. McVeigh, fleeing the scene, was stopped by
    an Oklahoma highway patrolman, Charlie Hanger, famous locally as a
    stickler for traffic rules, who was within a quarter-mile of finishing
    his patrol on Interstate 35. Mr. McVeigh's rusty old car had dropped
    its license plate and he was carrying a pistol, so the trooper took
    him to the Noble County Jail in Perry. The sole judge on duty was
    busy, and while Mr. McVeigh waited, the F.B.I. was able to trace the
    vehicle to Elliot's Body Shop in Junction City, Kan., and make an
    identification. A computer search led to a frantic phone call that
    held him for arrest in the bombing.

    The museum also gives a vivid picture of how an ordinary day turned
    into horror.

    A tape recording from a machine on a plain office table has the voice
    of Lou Klaver, an official at the Oklahoma Water Resources Board - its
    building nearby was destroyed and two people were killed - opening a
    routine hearing on an application number 95-501 by Roy Wikle to pump
    and bottle water.

    "There are nine elements," Ms. Klaver is heard to say, "that I have to
    receive information regarding -- "

    The explosion booms, startling even when expected. The room goes dark.
    Next is videotape from the local Channel 9 news helicopter circling
    over the carnage.

    "Wow," exclaims Jesse Gary, a reporter from the helicopter. "Holy cow!
    About a third of the building has been blown away!"


At Least 31 Are Dead, Scores Are Missing After Car Bomb Attack in Oklahoma 
City Wrecks 9-Story Federal Office Building

    This event took place on April 19, 1995, and was reported in the The
    New York Times the following day.



    U.S. Officials Scurry for Answers -- Reno to Ask Death Penalty

By David Johnston


                      12 Victims Were Children in 2d-Floor Day-Care Center

                    In Shock, Loathing, Denial: 'This Doesn't Happen Here'
                                                           OTHER HEADLINES

                                        Gas Fumes Create Panic in Yokohama

                                                   Court Upholds Anonymity

                                                  Lugar Declares Candidacy

                                                 Mayor Wants to End Relief

    Washington, April 19 -- The authorities opened an intensive hunt
    today for whoever bombed a Federal office building in Oklahoma City,
    and proceeded on the theory that the bombing was a terrorist attack
    against the Government, law-enforcement officials said.

    President Clinton appeared in the White House press room this
    afternoon and somberly promised that the Government would hunt down
    the 'evil cowards' responsible. 'These people are killers,' he said,
    'and must be treated like killers.'

    Attorney General Janet Reno, speaking to reporters at the White House
    in early evening, said that casualty figures from the scene were
    climbing and that of the 550 people who worked in the building, 300
    were unaccounted for.

    Ms. Reno said Federal prosecutors would seek the death penalty against
    the bombers. 'The death penalty is available,' she said, 'and we will
    seek it.'

    But the authorities said they had no suspects, and questions about the
    identity of the bombers swirled around the case. The only solid fact
    was the explosion itself.

    Some law-enforcement officials said the bombing might be linked to the
    second anniversary today of Federal agents' ill-fated assault on the
    Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Tex., an operation that ended in a
    fire that killed about 80 people, including many children. Among the
    offices housed by the Federal building in Oklahoma City was one
    quartering local agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and
    Firearms, the agency that Branch Davidians and their sympathizers
    blamed for the confrontation.

    But other officials said that neither the Branch Davidians nor
    right-wing 'militia' groups that have protested the Government's
    handling of the Davidians were believed to have the technical
    expertise to engage in bombings like the one today.

    Some experts focused on the possibility that the attack had been the
    work of Islamic militants, like those who bombed the World Trade
    Center in February 1993.

    But if so, it was unclear why they would have struck in Oklahoma City.
    Some Middle Eastern groups have held meetings there, and the city is
    home to at least three mosques. But of the estimated five million
    Muslims in the United States, 'there's just very, very few out that
    way,' said Imam Muhammad Karoub, director of the Federation of Islamic
    Associations, based in Redford, Mich, a Detroit suburb.

    Several news organizations, including CNN, reported that investigators
    were seeking to question several men, described as being Middle
    Eastern in appearance, who had driven away from the building shortly
    before the blast. There were also reports that the authorities had
    interviewed employees at a National Car Rental office in Dallas about
    a recently leased truck.

    But Federal officials here said they could not confirm those reports.
    Indeed, investigators said they did not know whether the bombers were
    domestic or international terrorists.

    The authorities said the bomb had probably been packed in a vehicle
    parked outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, where the
    explosion left a 20-foot-wide, 8-foot-deep crater in the street.

    Officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms said they had
    not determined the bomb's chemical makeup, which they suspected to be
    ammonium nitrate and fuel oil, both easily available substances of the
    type used in the World Trade Center bombing. They said the damage led
    them to conclude that the bomb, if it was made of ammonium nitrate,
    might have weighed 1,000 to 1,200 pounds, about the size of the trade
    center bomb.

    From offices and bases around the country, Government aircraft carried
    to Oklahoma City an array of Federal law-enforcement officials,
    emergency management personnel and military forces, an operation that
    constituted one of the vastest responses to a crime in American

    The firearms bureau sent national emergency teams to coordinate the
    examination of the bomb site, the analysis of the explosives and the
    search for fragments of the vehicle in which the bomb was believed to
    have been planted.

    The Federal Bureau of Investigation sent four special agents in charge
    of field offices in New Orleans, Houston, Phoenix and Dallas to manage
    the investigative operation.

    From Fort Sill, Okla., the Pentagon sent two medical evacuation
    helicopters, Army soldiers trained in bomb disposal and two canine
    bomb detection teams. The Air Force sent a 66-member rescue squad,
    along with two ambulances, from Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. It
    also dispatched 38 trauma-team members from Lackland Air Force Base
    near San Antonio.

    Military transport aircraft flew 68 civilian firefighters and a
    60-member search and rescue team to the site. In addition, the
    Pentagon said about 80 soldiers from the Oklahoma National Guard's
    745th Military Police Company were helping to provide security around
    the Federal building.

    A 24-hour F.B.I. command center with 400 telephones was established in
    Oklahoma to coordinate the work of explosives teams, bomb technicians
    and portable scientific gear used to analyze chemical residues.

    Mr. Clinton learned of the explosion about 10:30 A.M. from his press
    secretary, Michael D. McCurry, just as the President was beginning an
    Oval Office meeting with the Turkish Prime Minister.

    The White House chief of staff, Leon E. Panetta, left the meeting
    about 11 with instructions from Mr. Clinton to call Attorney General
    Reno and make sure that Federal agencies were coordinating their
    responses and had all the resources they needed.

    The President later dispatched James Lee Witt, head of the Federal
    Emergency Management Agency, to Oklahoma, and left the Oval Office
    periodically the rest of the day to watch reports from the scene on a
    television in his secretary's office.

    'Like most Americans,' Mr. McCurry said, 'he was troubled, expecially
    by pictures of the children' who had been killed.

    The President also discussed the situation with Oklahoma's Governor,
    Frank Keating, and members of the state's Congressional delegation.
    Later he wrote out remarks in longhand, then went to the White House
    briefing room about 5:15 to deliver them to the waiting reporters.

    But aides said Mr. Clinton had also felt that it was important to keep
    up with the rest of his schedule. So he met as planned with
    representatives of three Iowa television stations who had come to
    interview him about a conference on rural America that is scheduled
    for Ames next week.

    Justice Department officials heard early reports of the blast but said
    later that they had not realized the extent of the damage until they
    watched television accounts from the scene. Ms. Reno spent much of the
    day monitoring developments and sent Deputy Attorney General Jamie S.
    Gorelick to the White House to advise officials there.

    Later, Ms. Reno met with Mr. Clinton, discussing Federal statutes that
    might apply to the crime and telling him that a standing emergency
    response plan had been put into effect, sending teams of Federal
    agents to Oklahoma City.

    It is unclear whether the Government had received any intelligence
    indicating that any group had been planning an attack, and also
    unclear whether there had been any sign of movement like that leading
    to the explosion at the World Trade Center.

    In the case of the trade center, Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, charged with
    being the mastermind behind the bombing, entered the United States
    under an assumed name, recruited local supporters to carry out the
    detail work and then fled the country within hours of the blast, the
    authorities say.

    Several officials said there had been no threats before the Oklahoma
    City blast and no credible claims of responsibility afterward. The
    officials added that there were numerous witnesses among occupants of
    the building and said the site could yield a wealth of clues about the
    chemical composition of the bomb and the identity of the vehicle that
    presumably carried it.

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