Oklahoma City bombing
Damage to the Murrah building before cleanup began.
The Oklahoma City bombing was an attack against the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, USA.
At 9:02 am on April 19, 1995, in the street in front of the Murrah building, attackers exploded a rented Ryder truck containing about 5,000 lb (2,300 kg) of explosive material. The car bomb was composed of ammonium nitrate, an agricultural fertilizer, and nitromethane, a highly volatile motor-racing fuel. Timothy McVeigh, a gulf war veteran, was arrested by an Oklahoma Highway Patrolman within an hour of the explosion. At his trial, the United States Government asserted that the motivation for the attack was to avenge the deaths of Branch Davidians at Waco, Texas, whom McVeigh believed had been murdered by agents of the federal government. McVeigh called the casualties in the bombing "collateral damage" and compared the action to actions he had taken during the Gulf War. The attack was staged on the second anniversary of the Waco incident.
In all, 168 people were killed in the bombing. The remains of the half-destroyed Federal building were demolished in May 1995. Today, the site of the Murrah building is occupied by a giant memorial which includes a large reflecting pool, two large "doorways", a museum, and a field full of chairs—one for each person lost. The seats of the children killed are smaller than those of the adults lost. Some legislation was also introduced in response to the attack, notably the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
The site became part of the National Park Service. On February 19, 2001 an Oklahoma City bombing museum was dedicated at the Oklahoma City National Memorial Center.
Michael Fortier was sentenced to 12 years in prison and fined $200,000 on May 27, 1998 for failing to warn authorities about the attack.
Timothy McVeigh was sentenced to death for the bombing, after being convicted of, among other things, murdering federal law enforcement officials. He was executed by lethal injection at a U.S. penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, on June 11, 2001. An accomplice, Terry Nichols, was sentenced to life in prison after being convicted of manslaughter in a federal court trial. Nichols stood trial in McAlester, Oklahoma, on state murder charges starting on March 1, 2004, and was convicted of 160 counts of first-degree murder, plus other felony charges on May 26. The penalty phase of the state trial, in which he could have been given the death penalty, ended in a jury deadlock, which automatically resulted in the imposition of a sentence of life imprisonment. His brother, James was also accused of taking part in the bombing, but was released due to lack of evidence.
The effect on children
In his remarks on the bombing, President Bill Clinton said that "the bombing in Oklahoma City was an attack on innocent children." Because of this, schools across the country were dismissed early and ordered closed.
As well as effects on children with a direct connection to the bombing, stories of many children being becoming distressed after hearing media reports about the bombing emerged. At the time, the bombing was the largest such attack to have occurred in the United States. Many children were amongst the victims, and footage of a firefighter removing an infant's body was shown repeatedly, adding to the shock. Responding to this, in the first 2 days after the bombings, Clinton and his wife, Hillary, asked aides to talk to child-care experts about what to tell children. On April 22, the Saturday after the bombing, the Clintons gathered 24 children of employees of agencies that had offices in the federal building in Oklahoma City in the Oval Office.
In remarks broadcast live on television and radio, the Clintons talked to children about the bombing and answered questions that they may have had.
Later research established symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder were present in many children exposed to media reports of the bombing. (See references).
The effect on popular culture
The aftermath of the incident caused the issue to be a sore subject for many years to come. In May 1995, an episode of the soap opera All My Children was pulled at the last minute as a villainess on the program, Janet Green (Robin Mattson), plotted to blow up the church in which her ex was to marry her rival. ABC daytime executives thought the episode might be too upsetting for many viewers. The episodes were written and taped before the bombing and as a result of the show being pulled, a complete rewrite and new tape schedule had to be instituted. In the end, Janet charged in on the reception with gun in hand.
The 1998 X-Files movie, "The X-Files: Fight the Future," featured the bombing of a Federal office building in Dallas, and drew criticism for implying that the U.S. government was actually responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing.
- B. Pfefferbaum, T.W. Seale, N.B. McDonald et al. "Posttraumatic Stress Two Years after the Oklahoma City Bombing in Youths Geographically Distant from the Explosion," Psychiatry 63(2000):358-70.
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