Media invades Oklahoma City
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – With a horde of TV and newspaper reporters encamped around the Oklahoma National Memorial, the news spread quickly Friday that Timothy McVeigh’s execution would be delayed.
The memorial, which includes a reflecting pool and a learning museum that details the story of the Oklahoma City bombing and its aftermath, is built on the former site of the Alfred P. Murrah Building, where 168 people died April 19, 1995.
On a typical day, about 2,500 visitors from around the world and friends and relatives of the dead and injured visit the somber, wind-whipped oasis in downtown Oklahoma City.
Two French college students at the memorial, Klervi Le Marre of Paris and Clarisse Tschannen of Avignon, had stopped in town to visit friends on their way to California.
They had never heard of the Oklahoma City bombing before, but they were eager to learn about it.
Among visitors from this area was Pete Bourns, 44, of the Oklahoma City suburb of Edmond. He knew eight people who were killed in the Murrah Building, all employees of the federal Department of Agriculture.
Bourns was showing the memorial to friends visiting from Houston.
‘It’s a solemn place,’ he said upon seeing the memorial for the first time. ‘For such an act of terrorism, it’s as good as you can do.’
Yesterday, shortly after U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft announced that McVeigh’s execution date had been moved from May 16 to June 11, reporters and photographers were scouring the grounds, looking for interview subjects.
Stephen Jones, McVeigh’s original court-appointed lawyer, strode briskly past the pool as two TV news cameramen videotaped him. Carrying his book, ‘Others Unknown,’ Jones had a curbside date with a Fox News Channel reporter.
Jones, who was dismissed by McVeigh and who thinks there were others involved in the bombing, said the revelation that the FBI had not turned over all the evidence in the case ‘lends credence to the idea that McVeigh didn’t act alone.’
Survivors of the bombing, or relatives of those killed by it, were harder to find.
A woman who works in the newly opened museum’s busy gift shop and had lost her adult daughter was not available, her boss said. Neither were any of the museum’s volunteer docents who had lost relatives.
Nor was Paul Howell, a local man who also lost an adult daughter and was set to fly to Terre Haute, Ind., to be one of 10 witnesses present at McVeigh’s execution.
Howell is a willing spokesman for the thoughts and feelings of the survivors, but apparently he was not at home. His phone’s answering machine had 27 beeps, testimony to the fierce media demand for his reaction to the postponement.
A survivor of a victim who was making himself and his disappointment available to all media comers was Dan McKinney, 49, a housing inspector for the city. His wife Linda, 47, and his niece, Shelly, died in the explosion.
‘Linda worked at Secret Service,’ he said from beneath his broad cowboy hat. ‘Shelly worked at DEA.’
McKinney and other survivors he talked to were sorely disappointed by the surprise delay in McVeigh’s execution, which is ‘something we’ve waited six years for,’ he said.
‘I’m angry, frustrated. I’m physically sick at my stomach.’
Bill Steigerwald can be reached at email@example.com or (412) 320-7983.