American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Tragedy at Oklahoma City

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Oklahoma City, 9:02a.m., April 19, 1995. A virulent antigovenment radical. A homemade truck bomb. 168 people dead — including 19 children. More than 500 people injured. Now comes the whole shocking story of a day that lives in infamy — a story every American muct read.
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Oklahoma City, 9:02a.m., April 19, 1995. A virulent antigovenment radical. A homemade truck bomb. 168 people dead — including 19 children. More than 500 people injured. Now comes the whole shocking story of a day that lives in infamy — a story every American muct read.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061065187
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/8/2002
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 560
  • Product dimensions: 4.21 (w) x 6.78 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

The Boy Next Door

I struggle with the question: Do I love my parents? ... I have very few memories of my childhood, of interaction with my parents. I can't blame them for anything that's happened to me. I was often by myself or with neighbors. Most of my memories focus on that.

-- Timothy McVeigh

At 11:45 p.m. on April 22, 1968, a phone call cut short Bill McVeigh's night shift at Harrison Radiator in Lockport, New York.

"You better go home. Your wife's going to have a baby," his foreman called out after hanging up with Mildred Noreen "Mickey" McVeigh. Mickey had called the plant to summon her husband home. Ignoring the predicted due date of April 25, the second of the McVeighs' children was arriving ahead of schedule.

Bill McVeigh, a tall, lean man with a mop of reddish-brown hair, came from a family of hard workers with strong backs. He was second generation at Harrison, the factory that supplied General Motors with car radiators. As he hurried away from his post, he wondered whether he was about to welcome the family's third Harrison worker into the world.

A natural mathematician able to tally long columns of numbers in his head, McVeigh looked up into the night sky outside the plant. Crystals of snow tumbled through the air. April was almost over, but the snow was nothing shocking to Bill. He'd wintered in western New York his whole life. What interested him was the statistical contrast in temperatures. Earlier that day, the temperature had risen to almost seventy degrees. Now, the mercury had plunged low enough to speckle the night air withsnowflakes.

As Bill McVeigh strode on long legs toward his car, parked with thousands of others in a massive lot, he was consumed by nervous excitement. He was anxious to know whether this time Mickey would give birth to a son. A boy would give them one of each. In the long term, of course, it didn't really matter; Bill and Mickey dreamed of having a big family, and at some point, they reasoned, the odds were bound to yield a son.

Bill jumped into his car. He hadn't far to drive. He sometimes walked to and from work in those early days, when the McVeighs were a one-car family. From his backyard on junction Road, across a sweeping field of grass, you could see Harrison. Others might have been put off by the idea of looking out upon their place of employment during off-hours, but Bill didn't mind at all. He was a devoted company man, always glad to have the work. He would punch the time clock for thirty-six years without a grain of resentment.

The wheels of McVeigh's 1966 Chevrolet Biscayne -- he was always a GM man -- crunched as they rolled up the gravel driveway to his tiny three-bedroom ranch. In a moment McVeigh swept his wife into the car and the two got back on the road, barrelling toward Lockport, a city split in two by the murky waters of the Erie Canal. When they arrived five minutes later at Lockport Memorial Hospital, it was a familiar sight: they'd made the same journey for their daughter Patty two years before, nine months practically to the day after Mickey and Bill's wedding on August 28, 1965.

For all their enthusiasm about having a big family, Mickey had married reluctantly. Part of her wanted motherhood. The other part had wanted to pursue a career as a stewardess. It was only after she met and married Bill McVeigh that she had settled down, taking a job as a travel agent.

Bill McVeigh's family had for generations lived a peaceful life as farmers beside the Erie Canal. But by the time Bill was born, only fragments of that life remained. As a boy, Bill and his brother Jim worked on their grandfather Hugh McVeigh's eighty-acre farm at Bear Ridge and Robinson Roads in Lockport, helping to harvest the hay that fed the handful of cattle their grandfather raised. When Hugh McVeigh died in 1955, the family's fanning tradition came to an end.

Bill's father and mother, Edward and Angela McVeigh, reared Bill and Jim in a farmhouse Ed had helped build at 5940 Bear Ridge Road, on a plot from Hugh's old farm. The house faced the Erie Canal, which to the boys and their friends was known as "the hills" because of the waterway's steep banks. The brothers were careful to stay out of the water. Neither of them knew how to swim, and one of their companions had drowned in the channel's fifteen feet of water.

Ed McVeigh was the brick and mortar of the McVeigh family, a lifelong auto worker who kept his family going in the face of tragedy. In 1942, after Angela fell down a flight of stairs shortly after giving birth to Jim, she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis; she would never walk again. Angela was forced to rely on Ed's strong arms and back to lift her from bed and keep things running in the house. Yet Ed resolved to make sure his two sons had as close to a normal childhood as possible. At night, after Ed went to work, his elderly mother, Wilhamina, and her daughter Helen, who lived next door, would stop by to give Angela a hand.

Bill's young life was brightened by occasional summer trips to the Crystal Beach amusement park; Uncle Hugh, Ed's brother, also taught Bill how to golf But the real focus of the family's entertainment was the South Lockport Fire Hall, where Ed was a charter member. Ed, Bill, and Jim passed their summers marching in the fire company's drum corps at countless firefighters' parades and field days. On Saturday evenings Angela would sit in the family car and...

American Terrorist. Copyright © by Lou Michel. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 3 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2003

    Interesting insight.

    I read this book when it first came out. Bought the day he was executed. It's easy to pass him off as a crazy extremist but when looked at closer, the story is very interesting and provides great insight into the mind of a model soldier who had been dehumanized by war in desert storm and came back and did what he was trained to do to attempt to change what he deemed evil and corrupt. I don't agree with what he did but I wanted to get to know who the person was that was being killed by the United States. The book provides good insight into what he saw in Desert Storm and how his experiences could lead him to be dehumanized enough to commit such a crime against humanity. Read it and learn some things.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2003

    True and to the point

    I thought this book was amazing. It let us see why he did what he did.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 4, 2002

    Very Well Written!

    The book is very well written, the beginning drags when it begins to talk about McVeighs childhood but that goes by quickly. The book will take you step by step by step in McVeigh's mind on why the United States needed to be punished... I read this book 3 times in one week. The thing I couldn't believe was how much me and McVeigh have in common- we both were in the army, we both had the same experiences at the SAME boot camp, 'FORT BENNING' - we both felt similar likes and dislikes about boot camp.

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