This was originally published in the Buffalo News. It seems like a good time to revisit it.
18 / 21 – Friday, May 12, 1995
Byline: By CATHERINE B. LANSKI –
OKLAHOMA TERROR A WORRY FOR ALL OF US
I pause at the door after dropping my daughter at the day-care center. At the front of the room, I see one little boy greeting each newcomer with a hug. Near a window, I see a dedicated young teacher coaxing bits of bright orange crayon out of a squirming child’s mouth. A brother and sister with cherubic yellow curls tussle over a red wagon in the center of the sunny room.
My own child, in pigtails, sits diligently working a puzzle, next to a boy who is contentedly munching Cheerios out of a plastic container that his mother packed for him this morning before kissing him goodbye and rushing off to work.
If this scene is not identical to that of the day care center of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City at 9 a.m. on April 19, it comes frightfully close. But a few minutes later that morning in that place, the scene had changed, horribly and irrevocably, to one of carnage and destruction — all at the whim of a handful of evil, misguided people.
Because of these malcontents there are now countless parents who have no chubby necks to nuzzle, no little arms wrapped around their legs at the end of a hard day, no one to scold for blowing bubbles in their milk when they’re supposed to be finishing dinner.
How do we begin to punish the perpetrators of a crime of this magnitude? If the death penalty is called for, as I assume it will be, is the execution of one man retribution for the deaths of nearly 200 people? And while the executed can do no more harm, the hate and rage that inspired them will still exist.
Even if Timothy McVeigh, the alleged bomber, is found guilty, we may never know how many other people are involved. For every captured killer who is extraordinarily violent and vocal in his views, there could be 10 people or more who operate in silence, sharing those views and possibly agreeing with violent means of expressing them.
The death and suffering caused by the bombing of the Murrah Building deeply touched the rescue workers in Oklahoma. Even the search dogs were depressed. But McVeigh reportedly remained unmoved by pictures or accounts of the carnage. He considers himself to be a political prisoner. While his supporters may hold him up as a martyr to their cause, I doubt that the children who were massacred were aware that their finger-painting was infringing upon anyone’s constitutional rights.
In retrospect, given McVeigh’s history and attitude and that of many like him, we should have seen it coming. Too many are making no secret of the fact that they would resort to violence to protect their perceived rights if angry words were not enough.
The rage that was directed at the United States government instead killed innocent children and ordinary people.
The militias that want to destroy the government forget that the only way to eliminate a democracy that was constructed of the people, by the people and for the people is to destroy all of its citizens.
The twisted bodies that were dragged from the wreckage of the federal building are more than just numbers in a body count. They were the young mother stopping by the Social Security office to pick up a card for her newborn or the high-school senior considering a career in the military. Daddies and grandmas and bowling partners perished in that explosion.
Little tykes suffered and died there, like little Baylee Almon, who was carried out of the wreckage in what should have been a moment of triumphant rescue, but instead came to symbolize the horror that darkened that sunny spring morning and so many mornings to come.
That famous picture of Baylee is one of the many that wait for me when I close my eyes at night and try to sleep. But as horrifying as my dreams may be, I know that unlike so many Oklahoma City residents, I can wake up and pad down the hall to see that my family is still safely asleep. But for how long? How long will it be before some disgruntled lunatic decides that someone I love, or their employer or the shop where they popped in for a quart of milk, is responsible for his problems?
Let us all remember that if we are unhappy with the way this country is being run, we can vote at the polls, vote with our voices or vote with our feet and leave. But let us not take the lives of innocent citizens and call it taking a stand against the government.
CATHERINE B. LANSKI lives in Williamsville.
Send submissions for this column to My View, The Buffalo News, Box 100, Buffalo N.Y. 14240.
Keywords: MY VIEW WORDS FROM WESTERN NEW YORK