A grim day twenty years ago

Twenty years ago today, Timothy McVeigh blew up a truck bomb in front of the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.

I was in the middle of my ministerial internship not so far away in Tulsa, and I was getting ready to go to church when the news came over the television. What I remember more than anything else that day was

  1. How quickly one of the national news anchors suspected Arab terrorists. That made no sense to me. In Oklahoma? I guessed it was a revenge act by someone who felt hurt by the government, like a bankrupted farmer, which was closer to the truth.
  2. I shaved my beard immediately. Tulsa had a decent Muslim population, in part from its petrochemical industry and training, and the mosque wasn’t far from where I lived. I feared for them — if that’s how the news went — and feared for me, since (for reasons I’ve never understood) I read Arab. And, indeed, had to escape a mob of drunk sailors, a couple of years prior. (Perhaps after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.)  But I don’t recall any violence in Tulsa that night.
  3. I do recall the sadness. Particularly at a gay bar I went to that night. Many of the patrons were EMTs and ER nurses. But the devastation was so complete that they weren’t needed in Oklahoma City.
Categorized as History

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.


  1. For those of an age, another, “I’ll always remember where I was,” moment. I was just preparing to leave for my pre-candidating weekend in Hudson, MA. I said to my wife, “Oh, I just hope it’s not some Arab terrorist, things are bad enough already.” As Scott writes, we already had plenty of domestic sociopaths that made better suspects even in the first hours. Lots of time sitting in a motel room watching the coverage that weekend, in between making nice with the search committee, trying to focus on the future. I was invited, was called, and served them for nine years, including the war to topple Saddam Hussein for WMDs he never had. Not sure what progress we’ve made in those 20 years.

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