BBC Homepage World Service Education
BBC Homepagelow graphics version | feedback | help
BBC News Online
 You are in: World: Americas
Front Page 
Middle East 
South Asia 
From Our Own Correspondent 
Letter From America 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Monday, 11 June, 2001, 17:30 GMT 18:30 UK
Pain remains for McVeigh victims
Shari and Jay Sawyer among relatives leaving Oklahoma City screening
Some witnesses left the television screening in tears
By Nick Bryant in Oklahoma City

They watched the execution in silence.

From the moment the first drug was pumped into Timothy McVeigh's right leg at 0710, until the time he was declared dead four minutes later. Nobody said a word. The mood was sombre. There were some tears.

At a government building on the outskirts of Oklahoma City, more than 1,000 victims' relatives and survivors had been given clearance to witness the bomber's last moments, via a closed-circuit television feed sent along a secure phone line from Terre Haute, Indiana.

He got the final word - I thought I would feel something more satisfying

Witness Raymond Washburn
In the end, only 232 people turned up. They wanted to see the author of their grief put to death. Others did not.

Attorney General John Ashcroft, America's chief law enforcement official, had flown in from Washington. He wanted to be with the relatives, rather than at the federal "death house" in Terra Haute.

It was Ashcroft who allowed the execution to be televised. The relatives expressed their gratitude with a standing ovation.

Viola Grass, who overslept and escaped bomb
Others whose lives were changed by McVeigh went to the city's memorial park
The first image was shocking, the blank screen suddenly replaced by a close-up image of McVeigh's face.

A camera was positioned above his head. He looked straight into it, blinking only occasionally.

Some observers detected a smirk; others said there was a look of defiance. McVeigh died with his eyes open.

"I'm sure he would do it again if he had the chance," said Larry Whicher, angered at McVeigh's lack of remorse. Whicher's brother, Alan, a secret service agent, died in the bomb.

It's the end of a chapter - but there's an epilogue

Victim's brother
Larry Wicher
Others were struck by the heavy irony that the 33- year-old Gulf War veteran had died quietly and in peace - something he denied their relatives.

Many people in Oklahoma City viewed this day as part of their healing process - a kind of cathartic release, like a funeral or wake.

"It's just one more thing that helps me get through it," said survivor Fran Ferrari, who was in the building opposite when the bomb went off, and sustained terrible injuries which almost claimed her sight.

"It almost allows us to regain a sense of control."

It's over, we don't have to continue with him anymore

Janice Smith, victim
But many of the relatives said that watching the execution did not provide the relief they were looking for.

"He got the final word," said Raymond Washburn, who ran a snack shop in the Alfred P Murrah federal building. "I thought I would feel something more satisfying."

Jay Sawyer, whose mother died in the bomb, said: "Without saying anything he got the final word, absolutely. His teeth were clenched, just like when he was first arrested. His teeth were clenched, his lips were pursed and just a blank stare. It was the same today."

Relatives embrace
There was grief for many among the park's special bronze chairs
"His death is not going to bring closure," said Larry Wicher. "It's the end of a chapter. But there's an epilogue: the rest of our lives. There are always going to be Christmases and birthdays."

Rather than watch the execution, Constance Richardson, who lost her 20 year-old daughter Lakesha in the attack, went to the bomb-site, now a tranquil memorial where 168 bronze chairs symbolise each life that was lost.

"I didn't want to be part of his audience," she said, a Stars and Stripes neck-scarf tied around her head.

"I didn't want that image in my mind to stay with me."

Renee Findley, who lost her friend, 41-year-old Teresa Lauderdale, in the bombing, stood at the memorial with Lauderdale's parents, John and Gloria Taylor.

"There's some relief, but it really doesn't change anything," Ms Findley said. "It still hurts."

I never took my eyes off him for a moment and he showed absolutely no remorse
Patsy Scott, victim's relative
Mr Taylor said: "We will hurt tomorrow just as we did yesterday."

Janice Smith, whose brother Lanny Scroggins died in the bombing, prayed with her children at the Oklahoma City National Memorial, then left after getting word that McVeigh was dead.

"It's over. We don't have to continue with him any more," she said.

Despite their feelings about McVeigh, most of the victims started their statements by passing on their condolences to McVeigh's family.

Kathleen Treanor said she felt for McVeigh's father, Bill , because "he has lost his son and I know the pain he must be feeling today".

Timothy McVeigh is dead. But the people touched by his cruelty still feel their pain.

Search BBC News Online

Advanced search options
Launch console
See also:

10 Jun 01 | Americas
McVeigh: Countdown to death
04 Jun 01 | Americas
Prosecutors oppose McVeigh delay
31 May 01 | Americas
McVeigh's on-off date with death
16 May 01 | Americas
FBI admits McVeigh blunder
12 Apr 01 | Americas
Live from death row
11 Jun 01 | Americas
Barriers separate death protesters
11 Jun 01 | Americas
McVeigh: Countdown to death
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Americas stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Americas stories