History of the Oklahoma City bombing
OKLAHOMA CITY, AP—EDITORS NOTE: On April 19, 1995, a former U.S. Army soldier parked a rental Ryder truck loaded with explosives in front of a federal office building in Oklahoma City. The explosion at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building killed 168 people and injured more than 500 others in what remains the deadliest act of domestic terrorism on American soil.
The bombing happened just two years after the first attack on the World Trade Center. The media and some Americans immediately speculated that Middle Eastern men were the culprits before the FBI later discovered that two white men were responsible for the attack.
Former US soldier Timothy McVeigh was convicted in 1997 of 11 counts of murder, conspiracy and using a weapon of mass destruction in the blast. He was executed in 2001. Another ex-soldier, Terry Nichols, was found guilty of similar charges for his role in the bombing and sentenced to life without parole after the jury found themselves in the Deadlock on the Death Penalty. Both men were motivated by contempt for the government, hatred compounded by the 1993 federal raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas.
Twenty-five years later, the AP is making the original story and photographs available.
On Wednesday, a car bomb drove deep into America’s heartland, killing at least 33 people and leaving 200 missing in an explosion that tore a nine-story hole in a federal office building.
The ‘miracle babies’ of the OKC bombings have now grown up
Among the dead were at least 12 youngsters, some of whom had just been dropped off by their parents at a day care centre.
The government had received calls from six people saying they belonged to different Muslim groups, claiming they were responsible for the deadliest US bombing in 75 years.
“But there’s no way of knowing if the calls are genuine,” said a Justice Department official, who declined to be identified by name. “They could be hoaxes.”
At least 200 people were injured, 58 of them seriously, according to fire chief Gary Marrs. It was feared that dozens of people were trapped in the rubble of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.
“I was in Japan for the Kobe earthquake and saw the devastation,” said James Lee Witt, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. “The affected area here is just as bad, if not worse.”
Three people were pulled from the rubble on Wednesday night, but two died shortly after, Deputy Fire Chief Jon Hansen said. He said a 15-year-old girl was taken from the building in critical condition. He also said a woman trapped in the basement said there were two other people with her. She didn’t know if they were dead or alive.
The death toll was certain to rise.
“Our firefighters have to crawl over dead bodies in areas to reach people who are still alive,” Hansen said.
The first of four federally activated urban search and rescue units moved into the building early Thursday, using dogs, acoustic listening equipment and tiny cameras to search for victims.
Attorney General Janet Reno declined to comment on who might have been behind the attack. President Clinton called the suicide bombers “evil cowards” and Reno said the government would seek the death penalty against them.
A Department of Public Safety dispatcher in El Paso, Texas, told the El Paso Times that an alert was issued by the DPS for two people who may be bloodied and who may be attempting to cross into Mexico in Laredo, Texas. Texas. The bulletin stated that the information was under the authority of the FBI.
The bomb is believed to be in a Texas-licensed van owned by National Car Rental, the Oklahoma City Police Sgt. Kim Hughes. An axle from the vehicle was found about two blocks from the scene, said a police source who requested anonymity.
Their clothes ripped off, the victims covered in glass and plaster emerged bleeding and crying from the building, which looked like a giant mouthful, exposing its floors like a dollhouse.
Cables and other debris hung from the ground like tangled streamers in a scene reminiscent of the car bombings at the US Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983.
“I dove under that table,” said Brian Espe, a state veterinarian who was giving a slide presentation on the fifth floor. “When I walked out, I could see daylight if I looked north and daylight if I looked west.”
Mayor Ron Norick said the explosion, which left a crater 30 feet long and 8 feet deep, was caused by a car bomb. He said the vehicle was outside, in front of the building.
“Obviously no amateur did that,” Gov. Frank Keating said. “Whoever did this was an animal.”
Police Sergeant. Bill Martin said 12 of those killed were children.
Earlier in the day, paramedic Heather Taylor said 17 children died at the scene, a figure later disputed by police. Dr Carl Spengler, one of the first medics on the scene, said the children, all at the daycare, were between the ages of 1 and 7 and some had been burned beyond recognition.
About 20 of the 40 children at the daycare disappeared by the end of the day.
The search continued after dark, with about 100 Oklahoma National Guard troops activated to assist with rescue and security operations in the downtown area.
The blast, similar to the terrorist car bombing that killed six people and injured 1,000 at New York’s World Trade Center in 1993, occurred just after 9 a.m., when most of more than 500 federal employees were in their offices.
The explosion could be felt 30 miles away. Black smoke streamed across the horizon, and glass, bricks, and other debris were strewn over a wide area. The north side of the building is gone. Cars were incinerated in the street.
People were frantically looking for loved ones, including parents whose children were in the building’s daycare center.
Coast Guard’s Christopher Wright, one of those helping inside the building, said lifeguards periodically turned off their chainsaws and prying tools to listen for cries for help, “but we don’t we heard nothing – just death”.
“You are really helpless, when you see people with two feet you can’t do anything, they are just crushed,” he said.
Doctors had to amputate a woman’s leg to free her.
“She was lying under a beam. It was obvious that she could not be extracted alive,” said Dr Andy Sullivan. “Attempting to remove the concrete beams would have caused the rest of the building to collapse. So at that point no decision was made other than to crawl into the space and proceed with the amputation to discharge the patient.
The building, which opened in 1977, houses offices for federal agencies such as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, Social Security, Veterans Affairs, Drug Enforcement Administration, and Housing and urban development, as well as a federal employee credit union and military recruiting offices. .
The bomb weighed possibly 1,000 to 1,200 pounds, said ATF director John Magaw. As to whether his agency suspected terrorists, he told CNN, “I think anytime you have that kind of damage, that kind of explosion, you have to look over there first.”
Oklahoma FBI agent in charge Bob Ricks said there were hundreds of leads and the bureau was treating them all seriously. “At this stage we are not speculating who is responsible,” he said.
Keating said the FBI told him authorities were initially looking for three people of Middle Eastern descent in a brown van.
The Oklahoma Highway Patrol issued an all-points bulletin for all three, but Keating later downplayed the report, saying it was one of many leads checked.
Keating also said they were checking to see if a rental vehicle in the Dallas-Fort Worth area was related to the explosion. Dallas is about 200 miles south of Oklahoma City.
The explosion heightened American fears of terrorism. Federal buildings in several cities have been evacuated due to bomb threats and the government has ordered increased security at federal buildings across the country.
In 1920, a bombing in the Wall Street district of New York killed 40 people and injured hundreds. Authorities concluded it was the work of “anarchists” and drew up a list of suspects, but all had fled to Russia.
After Wednesday’s explosion, emergency crews set up a first aid center near the federal building, and some of the injured sat on the sidewalks, blood on their heads or arms, waiting for help. aid.
Carole Lawton, 62, HUD secretary, said she was sitting at her desk on the seventh floor when “all of a sudden the windows blew out. It was really dark and the ceiling started falling in” . She then heard “the roar of the whole building collapsing”. She managed to crawl up the stairs and was unhurt.
The explosion occurred on the second anniversary of the fiery and fatal end of the federal headquarters of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas. This siege began with a raid by ATF agents a month and a half earlier.
Oklahoma City FBI spokesman Dan Vogel wouldn’t speculate if there was a connection. The FBI offices are about five miles away.
During the World Trade Center bombing in February 1993, a rental van exploded in a parking lot below the Twin Towers. Four Muslims were convicted.