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April 19, 2011

Sixteen Years Ago

I usually commemorate this anniversary with quiet thought about the event and its aftermath. I've tucked my reflection from two years ago below the fold. This year I'm more concerned about the increasing number of politicians and academics who want to use the bombing as an excuse for their own pet prejudices.

Here's Obama's U.S. Attorney for Eastern Michigan, a truly ignorant woman named Barbara McQuade:

"Blaming all Muslims and Arabs for the acts of the hijackers of 9/11 is like blaming all Catholics for the acts of Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City," U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said Monday, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the 1995 bombing of a federal building.

She said this at a community forum as part of the Obama Administration's attempt to reassure Muslim Americans that the Administration wouldn't take any extra pains to discover and deter Islamic radicalization. (See the dangerous outcome of the Obama Administration's "outreach.")

McQuade's strawman -- who is blaming "all Muslims" for 9/11? -- and obfuscating moral equivalence -- McVeigh didn't blow up a building as part of a mission for radical Catholicism and, though he was raised in a Catholic household, he claimed to be agnostic -- is typical of a liberal strain of thought that arose after 9/11. I saw the false equivalence in grad school from an academic desperate to link religion generally (and not any particular religion) to terrorism and again in law school from another academic who clearly didn't know any of the actual facts about the Murrah building bombing but had his 9/11 : Islam :: OKC bombing : Catholicism analogy down pat.

Unfortunately, history is easily abused by the ignorant. Which is why I write about the bombing every year and I talk about it to folks too. This morning, local news did a retrospective on the Branch Davidians in Waco, which ended horribly on this day in 1993. The Oklahoma City bombing wasn't mentioned in the entire newscast.


What I wrote two years ago:

I can't believe it has been so long. Fourteen years ago at 9:02 in the morning a truck parked outside the America's Kids Day Care Center exploded. The blast, fueled by a fertilizer-diesel mix, was felt up to sixty miles away. It obliterated the day care center and brought down a third of the building. It shattered the windows of nearby buildings, killing or injuring many outside the target.

I'm talking, of course, about the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Ultimately, 168 people, including 19 children, were killed. Three unborn babies were also killed.

I was in junior high school at the time, in Stillwater, Oklahoma. It was a Wednesday and for some reason I was out of the classroom. I don't remember if I was running an errand for a teacher or what, but I do remember that I was on my way back to class when I passed the main office. Unusually, the TV was on, and quite loudly. It looked like everyone was gathered around it. So I wanted to see what was going on.

There was much more confusion that morning than is remembered now. Now we know that there was only one bomb, the Ryder truck. But back then there was a series of bomb scares during the rescue efforts. That was the first thing I saw and the strongest images I have of the bombing.

It was live footage in the street near the Murrah building. I remember seeing people sitting or standing, most of them crying or clutching injuries. There was blood. There were EMTs and firemen. And then suddenly so many people were running away. It wasn't immediately apparent why they were doing that--and then the cameraman started running too, which added another element of confusion.

It was all very hard to believe. Not just a bombing in Oklahoma--really? Oklahoma? But an on-going attack. I was so confused because the people I'd seen on TV were already hurt and the EMTs and firemen were already there. When you're a child you think, "Okay, the good guys are here; you can stop being afraid." But that wasn't the case, and I only realized it that minute. If I had to list the important formative events in my life, that would be right near the top.

When I got back to the classroom I didn't say anything to anyone. I didn't know what to tell them and I could hardly believe it myself, even after seeing it live and hearing the people in the main office crying. It was the same experience I had six years later during 9/11 when my first thought upon turning on the TV was that they were showing a movie clip on FNC. This cannot possibly be happening.

Sometimes I still feel that way.

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posted by Gabriel Malor at 07:26 AM

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