These days I don’t find too much on Netflix that I want to watch. Aside from the Marvel shows and some random documentaries, I don’t get much use out of the service. One of those documentaries was the PBS one about the Oklahoma City bombing. It was very detailed and told Timothy McVeigh’s story about how he got disillusioned with the United States government after his participation in the Gulf War. That, along with Ruby Ridge, and the Waco tragedy, really fueled his anti-government sentiments. It ultimately led to him parking a Ryder truck in front of the federal building in Oklahoma City and setting off his bomb.
The filmmakers pointed out how many white nationalist groups were out and about during that period. Oddly enough, growing up in Texas, I didn’t see any of those sorts of thing. This could have simply been childhood naiveté, as I was probably shielded from the horrors of such close-mindedness. I do remember going to the indoor flea market in town and looking at one man’s display of old-timey photographs. While some of these were simple ones, like old baseball players and old soldiers, a few of them were group photos of KKK members. Believe it or not, I saw more racism at the antique mall. Some of the items on display included ceramic mammys and seemingly innocent photos from blackface productions.
Be that as it may, racism was very much alive and well in the south during this era, and Timothy McVeigh and his actions are living proof. I was in junior high school when I first heard about the bombing. I think I was coming out of shop class when this really annoying kid named Mark declared to all of us as we exited the shop room, “There has been an explosion in Oklahoma City!” I didn’t think very much of it and went about my day. It wasn’t until a little while later that I saw the magnitude of what had happened. All of the news channels were featuring on-location reports of the incident, and it made front-page headlines in the newspaper the next morning. I guess it was a big deal.
Years later, in early 2003, I lived in a small town in Oklahoma, just north of OkC. At my job I heard a lot of stories from survivors and people who had family in the Murrah Building that day. For the first time I was finally able to put actual faces to the Oklahoma City bombing. Not that it wasn't real to me before then, but talking to the people made the tragedy more tangible to me, and less abstract.
The documentary gave a lot of insight into the ordeal, and even included small clips from some of the fanatic, fringe documentaries that came out a little bit after the Waco tragedy. I used to frequent a mom and pop video store in my neighborhood, and I remember soaking up all these crazy documentaries. While I was never sure what to believe, I do remember thinking that some of these crackpot ideas were way out of left field.
This PBS documentary was really good, and it shed a lot of light on a subject that some thought had happened so long in the past that we had either put it out of our minds, or no longer put the weight on it that it deserves. Oklahoma City deserves to be more than just a mere footnote in the history of our country. It is the ultimate act of domestic terrorism, and it shouldn’t be ignored just because it happened so long ago.
Samuel Colunga is a writer/podcaster from Texas by day, and superhero by night.