Yesterday marked twenty-five years since Timothy J. McVeigh murdered 168 people, including nineteen children, when he attacked a federal office building in Oklahoma City with a massive truck bomb.
Between Pearl Harbor and 9/11, the bombing was the deadliest deliberate attack on the United States. However, as the New York Times notes, “it has not been similarly woven into the tapestry of American history.”
McVeigh joined the Army at the age of twenty, earning a Bronze Star as a gunnery sergeant in the Persian Gulf War. However, he washed out of an audition for the Special Forces. Two sieges by US law enforcement agents against suspected armed compounds (Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in 1992 and Waco, Texas, in 1993) enraged him.
So he plotted revenge.
On the second anniversary of Waco, he constructed a seven-thousand-pound bomb using fertilizer in a Ryder truck, parked it outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City, lit the fuse, then drove away.
A horrific explosion ripped through the city at 9:02 a.m.
McVeigh never expressed remorse, calling the children who died “collateral damage.” He was executed three months before the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Most anniversary events planned for yesterday were canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. The annual reading of the names was prerecorded, along with brief remarks from political figures.
Republican Senator James Lankford of Oklahoma, a Baptist seminary graduate and former vocational minister, said on the memorial recording: “How do we identify things like anti-Semitism, racism, or hatred for government? We as a culture need to recognize those moments and not just allow them to lie dormant, but to engage.”
How to share the peace of Christ
My aunt and uncle lived in Oklahoma City when the bombing took place. They could never capture in words the horror their city felt that day and in the aftermath of the tragedy.
We should all share their grief. What happened in Oklahoma City happened to us all.
As a result, the best way for Americans to mark the anniversary of this tragedy is to do all we can to keep it from happening again. Consider some biblical ways to respond:
- Pray daily for God’s protection for our nation and your community (1 Timothy 2:1).
- Look for those who seem lonely and ostracized from society and find ways to share God’s word and grace with them (Ephesians 4:32).
- If you know someone you believe might commit an act of aggression, alert authorities (Romans 13:4).
- Use your influence to share God’s inclusive grace (Galatians 3:28). Bigotry, hatred, and discrimination have no place in a healthy society. While we must speak biblical truth to cultural issues, we must do so in love (Ephesians 4:15).
Let us respond to this horrific anniversary by renewing our commitment to take the peace of Christ to a violent world filled with hatred.
Billy Graham was right: “Christ alone can bring lasting peace—peace with God—peace among men and nations—and peace within our heart.”