On the morning of April 19, 1995, a hired truck packed with a homemade 7000lb fertiliser bomb was driven into Oklahoma City and parked outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. After lighting the fuses, the bomber, made his escape and minutes later the bomb detonated. The front of the building was clawed away by the massive expolosion as a result and a children’s creche bore the brunt of the bomb. 168 people died in total, 19 of them children.
On Monday, 11 June, 2001, at 6.30am Timothy McVeigh was strip-searched by a restraint team and then dressed in a white t-shirt, khaki pants and slip-on shoes. He co-operated entirely during the time he was restrained in the execution holding cell in the death house to the time he walked into the execution room. He stepped up on to a little step and sat down on the table before positioning himself for the wardens to apply the restraints. Once strapped down an IV line carrying the deadly drugs was inserted into his right leg and covered by a sheet pulled up to his chest.
Raising his head and straining his neck Timothy McVeigh tried to acknowledge everyone who was about to watch him die. With one intense look he counted every person in the room and made sure each and every one of them looked into his eyes. He then rested his shaved head and stared straight up, concentrating on the beamed closed-circuit camera showing the execution to roughly 230 witnesses gathered 660 miles away in Oklahoma City. At 7.06am Warden Harley Lappin asked McVeigh if he had any final words. There was a one minute pause, the hoped for last minute apology or remorse never came. His head remained fixed, his eyes on the camera, rarely blinking.
The silence was broken, the charges recited – using a weapon of mass destruction, conspiracy murder. Then the US Fedreral Marshall was asked if they were ready to proceed. After listening to the reply of someone on the other end of the red phone the Marshall answered, “Warden, we may proceed with the execution.”
Throughout this all McVeigh’s expression was a focused stare. Silence enveloped the room once again. McVeigh swallowed hard as one of the IV lines jumped slightly once the chemical began to flow through. His eyes moved slightly from side to side, his chest moved up and down and his lips puffed out air twice. It seemed that he was trying to maintain consciousness. It was 7.10am and the first drug had been administered. Although open, McVeigh’s eyes had begun to glass over and roll up, as his skin began turning slightly yellow. At 7.11am the second drug had been administered. His lips started to turn blue, he lay still, his eyes remaining open. The time was 7.14am and it was over.
Those who saw McVeigh die, rather then merely hearing his last shallow breathes were uncertain of their experience. “I thought I would feel something more satisfying, but I didn’t. Without saying anything he got the final word. So many people suffered, for him just to go to sleep,” says Jay Sawyer whose mother, Dolores Stratton, was killed in the blast.
Although he opted not to read it out McVeigh’s last statement was the poem ‘Invictus’ written by the British poet William Ernest Henley in 1875.
Out of the night that covers me
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced or cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of the chance
My head is bloody but unbowed.
Beyond this place of warth and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters, not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Evil could be used as the perfect word to describe Timothy McVeigh’s actions, but I do not believe he should have been killed for it. Was anything gained from his death? The answer is no. Taking his life doesn’t bring back all the ones that have been lost, it is not justice as George W. Bush puts it. It is vengeance.
Tagesspiegel in Germany says, “McVeigh’s execution satisfied those who dream of the moral death penalty but such an ideal is never possible. The majority of the people in America who want the death penalty believe it is possible to have a morally perfect one, but after this day they will realise that this is a contradiction.” A statement I completely agree with. Timothy McVeigh was nothing more then a terrorist after attention who recieved all the attention he wanted.