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Bradley Talks To Survivors And Families

A Split On Death Penalty

If Timothy McVeigh is walked into the death chamber at the U.S. Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana there will be 25 witnesses present - ten family members and survivors, ten representatives of the media and five people McVeigh himself gets to select. The execution will also be broadcast live via closed circuit television to some 300 victims and relatives in Oklahoma City.

Before he is put to death, McVeigh will be permitted to make a final statement. He is planning to recite a line from a 19th Century poem which says "I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul." He is also expected to declare himself the winner in his war against America, saying the final score is 168 to 1.

During an interview last year, McVeigh told Ed Bradley that his hostility toward the U.S. Government solidified during the standoff at Waco, Texas. There, more than 70 members of the Branch Davidian Sect - including 24 children - died in a fire, after a bloody clash with federal agents.

What is so ironic - and so shocking - is McVeigh's concern for the children inside the Branch Davidian Compound, who were among those tear-gassed by government agents.

“The thing that hits me the hardest about that is the CS gas,” McVeigh said. “And just knowing what it does, and knowing as a, as some adults can barely breath because of it, when I saw it introduced into a building full of kids like that, it just, the emotions it brings up make me speechless.”

According to McVeigh, it is up to the citizens of the United States to do whatever is necessary to keep their government in check.

What about violence? “If government is the teacher, violence would be an acceptable option,” McVeigh said. “What did we do to Sudan? What did we do to Afghanistan? Belgrade? What are we doing with the death penalty? It appears they use violence as an option all the time.”

But others disagree: “He wants to be portrayed as a soldier and one that has courage when in actuality he is a coward,” says Arlene Blanchard, who survived the bombing. “And he's saying something about liberty and freedom. Everything that he was supposed to stand for was just the opposite. He became the judge, jury and executioner.”

During the interview, McVeigh said that one person in America with whom he can identify is another notorious criminal - the Unabomber, Ted Kaczynski. The two were incarcerated two years ago in the same cellblock at a federal penitentiary in Colorado, and talked to each other.

“We have somewhat different views,” says McVeigh. “But there is some common ground there.”

While Kaczynski is serving a life sentence without parole for his crimes, Timothy McVeigh will likely become the first federal prisoner to be executed since 1963. The majority of Americans are in favor of the death penalty. Still it is one issue that bitterly divides the nation, as it does some of the family members an survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing.

“Tim McVeigh has been rendered harmless where he is,” says Bud Welch, whose daughter was killed in the bombing. “And I see no gain whatsoever in taking him out of that cage… and to kill him.”

Others who survived the bombing, or whose family member were killed, favor execution.

“Every time I feel that maybe I'm making one step forward, Timothy McVeigh pipes up and says something that sends me right back where I was,” says Jannie Coverdale, whose two grandchildren, Aaron and Elijah Coverdale, were killed in the bombing. “My anger that I thought I had under control resurfaces.”

“I believe that there's no punishment that we as actual human beings could administer to him that would be appropriate for what he has done,” says Blanchard. “And that is something that's gonna be handled between him and Almighty God. That's why God said, ‘Vengeance is mine...’"

Those who were inside the Federal Building when it was bombed, and those whose family members died in the blast, may be the largest and most powerful group of survivors of a crime in American history. Many of them successfully lobbied for passage of a federal bill that sharply restricts the appeals of death row inmates. They also won a legal battle to have Timothy McVeigh's trial shown on closed circuit television in Oklahoma City. And now they have been granted permission to watch McVeigh's execution on TV live via satellite.

Will the event bring closure? “I despise the word 'closure' because there is no closure to what happened here,” says Calvin Moser, who worked for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and was seriously injured in the bombing. “The only closure to me will be when I'm put away in my grave.”

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