Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Oklahoma City bombing anniversary

Ten years ago
today I was sitting in the newsroom at the Kerrville Daily Times scanning the AP wire when I saw a news alert come across about a bomb going off at a federal building in Oklahoma City. I told my editor about it and he at first seemed indifferent. The Daily Times was still an afternoon paper at that point and my editor was putting the finishing touches on that day’s front page. He wasn’t in any mood to tear all of his work up and start over at the last minute. But I was insistent as I saw more and more news alerts coming across the wire and he finally conceded that we should probably include something about it on the front page. Before long he was tearing up inside pages as well to make room for pictures and graphics as the realization slowly dawned that this was one of the biggest news stories of the year.

Even in those pre-9/11 days early speculation pointed to foreign terrorists as the culprits - most likely Middle Eastern. But as it turned out it was the work of domestic terrorists which made the tragedy all the more disturbing. This hit home especially hard in Kerrville because there was an active group of militia folks running about town making anti-government noises at that time.
A few days after the bombing we were back in the newsroom when we suddenly heard an explosion go off somewhere in the distance. I remember people literally falling out of their chairs to race for the cars to find out what was going on. Our ever ready photographer Ken Schmidt was out the door in a flash and on the scene in a matter of moments.

Fortunately, there was no damage or injuries from the explosion. The feds had raided one of the local militia groups and confiscated a bunch of bomb-making materials which they took out into a field and blew up. This particular group had produced a video purporting to show people how to make their own homemade bombs and were selling it on the Internet. Quite possibly they were harmless eccentrics like most of the people caught up in the militia movement, but the mood of the country had quickly soured on that sort of thing.

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