Survivors, families deal with McVeigh’s execution in different ways
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – Some came to watch Timothy McVeigh die. Some wept at the spot where he destroyed so many lives. Others stayed in bed, determined not to let him take up any more of their time.
Those whose lives were shattered by McVeigh’s bomb found no common path when it came to his execution day Monday.
”I must have been clearing away the kitchen dishes,” said Rob Roddy, a bombing survivor who chose to be at home at 7:14 a.m. when McVeigh was pronounced dead. ”I have to admit they were intended to be distractions. I mean, if I saw a piece of lint on a perfectly clean floor, I would have picked it up.”
Others needed no distractions. They wanted to see McVeigh draw his last breath. Their car headlights formed long lines in the darkness at 3:30 a.m. as they gathered to watch a closed-circuit TV broadcast of the execution.
Fathers and mothers who lost children, husbands and wives who lost their spouses, and survivors who were pulled out of the carnage got more than a front-row seat. The 232 witnesses at the broadcast virtually leaned over McVeigh by way of a camera pointed at his head in Terre Haute, Ind.
The stare McVeigh gave them in return chilled them.
”That look I will never forget,” said Gloria Buck, whose uncle Rick Tomlin died in the April 19, 1995, bombing. ”It was like he looked right through me. It was almost like the devil was inside of him looking through us.”
”I think I did see the face of evil today,” said Kathy Wilburn, whose grandsons Chase Smith, 3, and Colton, 2, were among the 19 children killed.
As the broadcast began, McVeigh’s face jumped giant-sized onto the television screen set up at a federal installation.
Afterward, many of those in the audience had no regrets about deciding to watch. Many, though, felt lethal injection was too kind a fate for McVeigh. To them, it seemed as if he had simply gone to sleep.
”I was very angry. He died very peacefully. My dad’s body was crushed,” said Catherine Alaniz-Simonds. ”It took nine days to find my dad. McVeigh’s going to go home today to his family intact. There’s a lot of families who didn’t get to view their loved ones and there’s a lot of families who didn’t get a complete loved one returned to them. It’s just hard to find justice in that.”
Amy Stiers, who lost her stepmother and a cousin, said she will tell her 12-year-old daughter ”there will be no more books, no more interviews. He can never hurt us again. He can never call our children ‘collateral damage’ again.”
Others went to the Oklahoma City National Memorial, built where the federal building once stood. A field of empty bronze chairs stands for the 168 people who died at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
Constance Favorite stood on the ground where her daughter was killed and swayed to a radio that played ”America the Beautiful.” Renee Findley also listened to a radio, awaiting word that the man who killed her best friend would never speak again. Brenda Lay stared at the chair honoring her brother, tears streaming down her cheeks.
”It wasn’t about Tim McVeigh today,” Favorite said. ”It was about the victims here. Tim McVeigh isn’t that important to me, my child is. My chapter is closed on McVeigh. It’s time to move on.”
Pat Reeder, who lost his wife, Michelle, in the blast, did not leave his house and kept his television off. He stayed up late so that he would sleep in. Over time he had come to oppose the death penalty.
Roddy had wanted as normal a day as possible. He opposes the death penalty for religious reasons and did not want to witness the execution because ”I don’t believe witnessing the execution of another human being can be good for the human heart or soul.”
He said he didn’t judge those who chose to see it, however.
His supervisors at the Office of Housing and Urban Development gave him the day off and he didn’t fall to sleep until 3 a.m. He awoke just before 7 a.m.
A short time later, his 23-year-old daughter called, crying. She had seen news coverage of the execution, heard the stories again of those who lost loved ones and was overcome with grief.
”That really brought it home to me about the significance and power of today,” Roddy said. ”I hadn’t heard her cry about that since April 19, 1995.”
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