Sad Day in US History Remembered Today

by HB Auld, Jr.

Today is a sad day for two incidents in recent American history: the end of the siege of the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas, and the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

The first incident killed 82 people, including 25 children and two pregnant women. The second one, a direct result of the first, killed 168 civilians and military members.

The siege of the Branch Davidian compound at Mt. Carmel, Texas, 13 miles outside of Waco, began on February 28, 1993. Members of the Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) attempted to serve warrants for weapons on the Davidians, led by David Koresh. The Davidians resisted and the FBI soon arrived. They and other law enforcement held the compound at bay for 51 days. It ended April 19, 1993, when the Davidians allegedly set three fires inside the building, killing everyone, including Koresh, as it burned to the ground.

Oklahoma City Bombing

The subsequent bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City exactly two years later, was carried out by Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols at 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995.

The explosion was in retaliation for the siege on the Davidian compound in Waco. The resulting explosion killed at least 168 men, women, and children.

Timothy McVeigh was stopped for a license plate infraction less than 90 minutes after the blast and soon was connected to the bombing. He had set off the explosion in a Ryder rental truck filled with diesel oil and fertilizer. In addition to the 168 killed, 380 were injured and several buildings in the area were destroyed.

McVeigh served in the Gulf War and was angry at the government’s treatment of civilians at Ruby Ridge in 1992 and the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in 1993. Terry Nichols and Michael and Lori Fortier were soon identified as accomplices and also arrested and charged.

McVeigh was found guilty and sentenced to death. He was executed by lethal injection at the Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute in Terre Haute, Indiana, on June 11, 2001.

On May 26, 2004, the jury found Terry Nichols guilty on all charges, but deadlocked on the issue of sentencing him to death. Presiding Judge Steven W. Taylor then sentenced Nichols to 161 consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole. He remains in prison.

Michael and Lori Fortier were identified as accomplices for their association with McVeigh and for helping him scout the Federal Building as a target, as well as failure to warn authorities prior to the explosion. Michael Fortier agreed to testify against McVeigh and Nichols, in exchange for a reduced sentence and immunity for his wife, Lori. Fortier was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined $75,000 on May 27, 1998. On January 20, 2006, after serving seven-and-a-half years of his sentence, including time already served, Fortier was released for good behavior into the Witness Protection Program and given a new identity where he remains today.

On April 19, 2000, the Oklahoma City National Memorial was dedicated on the former site of the Murrah Federal Building, commemorating the victims of the bombing. Remembrance services are held there at the Memorial each year on April 19, at the time of the explosion.

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