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Remembering the Oklahoma City Bombing

Aired April 19, 2001 - 12:30   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Horrible noise; the roar of the whole building crumbling.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 1/3 of the building has been blown away, and you can see...

JOHN ASHCROFT, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: On June the 2nd, 1997 a jury convicted Mr. Timothy McVeigh of the April 19, 1995 bombing.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are seeing injured people everywhere.

CLINTON: And it was evil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are in what they call a code black right now, disaster mode.


ASHCROFT: This brutal act of terrorism killed 168 innocent people.

JANET RENO, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The death penalty is available, and we will seek it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Bomb experts say the destruction appears to indicate a car bomb loaded with more than 1,000 pounds of explosives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Unfortunately there are still people trapped...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are getting reports of numerous fatalities.

ASHCROFT: This cowardly crime against our nation was the largest terrorist attack ever within the United States of America.



Today in Oklahoma City, family members and survivors of a national tragedy gathered where the Alfred P. Murrah federal building once stood. Six years ago today an explosion ripped through the building, killing 168 people, including 19 children, and injuring countless others.

ROGER COSSACK, CO-HOST: Today's ceremony featured 168 seconds of silence followed by the reading of the victims' names. As family members remember, they're also looking ahead. Next month Timothy McVeigh is scheduled to be executed at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

VAN SUSTEREN: Joining us today from Oklahoma City is Lyle Cousins, who lost his wife in the bombing six years ago. From Memphis we're joined by Weldon Kennedy, former deputy director of the FBI.

COSSACK: Here in Washington: Erica Berger (ph), former federal prosecutor Solomon Wisenberg and Danielle Rainsberry (ph). In the back: Sara Mann (ph) and Jessica Manvell (ph).

I want to go to you, Lyle, and ask you this question: Is it any easier this year, knowing that -- or different for you knowing that Timothy McVeigh, the person who cause all the horror and the terror and the death is soon to be executed?

LYLE COUSINS, HUSBAND OF KIM COUSINS: No, I don't feel any different. I didn't base me going on with my life on his execution, although I'm in favor of that and I actually wish it would have taken place sooner. I think justice has taken a little too long in this case. But, no, just knowing that he's going to be executed doesn't make this any easier; just the passing of time, actually, is what makes it easier.

VAN SUSTEREN: Lyle, people in Oklahoma City are going to be able to see this closed-circuit, if they want to, on television. Do you intend to watch the execution? If so why; if not, why not?

COUSINS: I probably will watch it, and it will be a matter of convenience for me, if I can watch it. It would depend on what's going on with my son at that time. We're not going to let our lives come to a stop. I'm in favor of the closed-circuit, I'm glad they're doing it, but I don't have to see him die. I can trust others that will tell me that that has taken place.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is it about it, Lyle, that makes some people want to watch this, do you think?

COUSINS: I don't know. Everybody's grieving process is different, I think. Some people think that this is going to bring some kind of closure. Personally, I don't think his dying is going to bring closure for anybody. I think even the term "closure" is kind of a bogus term, really, when you deal with something like this. As you can see behind me, there's a building that's physically gone, a reminder every day, you know, that we've lost someone close to us here. And, you know, we just deal with that on a daily basis. COSSACK: Lyle, there's been extensive media coverage of these events, for obvious reasons. What impact do you think this extensive media coverage has had on you, the survivors of the victims, and do you think there was too much coverage?

COUSINS: At times, maybe; but I really think, in the case of this bombing, that the media has really handled themselves well. They've been really sensitive to families and survivors, I think. And I think they've just really -- or in some cases maybe they don't do a really good job of being sensitive; in this case I think they really have.

VAN SUSTEREN: Lyle, right now is, of course, the anniversary and the execution is May 16. Has the impact of the anniversary and the upcoming execution -- has that sort of affected, sort of, the mood in the city? Can you sense that people are paying a lot of attention to this?

COUSINS: I'm not sure I understood your question. Could you repeat it?

VAN SUSTEREN: Is the mood of the city somewhat different as we get closer -- as we get closer to this execution date are people talking about it more?

COUSINS: Once in a while you may have it brought up, and I probably hear it more than the average person was (sic) because most all of my acquaintances know that I lost my wife in the bombing. So, you know, I probably get questioned about it more than anything else. But I don't see a real great change in the city. This city is just growing and really vibrant. And I just -- you don't hear anything out of the ordinary about it.

COSSACK: Well, is there a unity among the victims' families, like yourselves? Among all of the other survivors of this, of the victims -- is there sort of a group feeling? Do you have meetings, do you stay together, are you in contact?

COUSINS: I stay in contact with a few people that were close to Kim that she worked with, but as far as a major group setting, no, I don't participate in anything like that. I think most things concerned when it comes to this memorial and the museum I think there's been a really great consensus and unity in the things that have been done to remember everyone. And I think since Timothy McVeigh's book, or the book that those two reporters published, came out I think there's more of a consensus on the death penalty, too.

VAN SUSTEREN: Lyle, how's your son doing?

COUSINS: He's doing really well. He's 15 years old, he loves to race motorcycles, and we just -- we're just going all the time.

COSSACK: Let's turn for a second now to Weldon Kennedy.

Weldon, April 19 is a day that will live in infamy, if you will, in America. As far as law enforcement goes, is this a special day? WELDON KENNEDY, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: It certainly is. As you've already pointed out, the largest and worst crime in United States history -- the anniversary, in fact, of the situation down in Waco as well, so law enforce throughout the United States certainly will be looking today -- and on the ready for any kind of an eventuality that might happen.

VAN SUSTEREN: How do you do that Lyle -- I mean Weldon? I mean, what does law enforcement do to, sort of, be on alert today in the horrible event that there's something that happens?

KENNEDY: Well, among other things, they would be in contact with any individuals who might have information pertaining to organizations that would have a propensity towards violence; and they would be in very close contact with those sources and with those people to ensure that any information whatsoever would be brought forward.

VAN SUSTEREN: Let me go back to Lyle for a second.

Lyle, you know, looking back over the past number of years, you know, this case is coming to a close end in the sense that he's going to be executed on May 16. Are you satisfied with law enforcement, the prosecutors, and how this case was handled?

COUSINS: I'm very satisfied. I think they've done a fantastic job. And even the doubters that didn't believe some of the evidence now -- Timothy McVeigh didn't reveal anything in the last month that we didn't already know. I mean, the prosecutors and the investigators and the police have done a very good job in this case.

VAN SUSTEREN: Sol, you're a former prosecutor. I got to tell you, I heard the closing argument by the lead prosecutor. Best closing argument I ever heard a prosecutor give; it was magnificent. What do you think the pressure was on him for that case?

SOLOMON WISENBERG, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, I think the pressure was great, but there were several motivational factors for any good prosecutor. And prosecutors, in that case, had unlimited resources, as well they should have -- relatively unlimited resources.

VAN SUSTEREN: And of course, the defense, you know, did as well. Judge Matsch was willing to give money to defense lawyers, which I always thought -- there's a lot of criticism at the time by some family members. They thought that Timothy McVeigh was getting too much money for his defense or too much in terms of rights, but I always thought Judge Matsch was so smart to give him, sort of, a locked case, that there would be nothing to appeal.

COSSACK: I want to talk to you about your experience as a prosecutor on a day like April 19 when, obviously, police and law enforcement are on a heightened alert. From the prosecutor's office are you -- is this a special day for you, too, to be in touch with law enforcement?

WISENBERG: Absolutely. It will be -- it will always be a special day after Oklahoma City. The combination of Waco as a motivating factor for Oklahoma City, and then what Oklahoma City was, unfortunately to an unstable element in our society -- it will always be, for the foreseeable future, a day where people are on edge, reflective. Prosecutors are in touch with the agents, very much so.

COSSACK: Let's take a break.

Up next: April 19 not only marks the day of the Oklahoma City bombing, but also the burning of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco. Find out the special security precautions that are being made across the country when we come back.


on Wednesday, a federal judge denied the request of Entertainment Network, Inc. to show a video feed of the execution of Timothy McVeigh over the Internet. Entertainment Network, Inc. says it plans to appeal.



COSSACK: We're back discussing the Oklahoma City bombing that occurred on April 19. Of course, today is the anniversary. We will talk with Weldon Kennedy.

Weldon, we already discussed, in fact, that on April 19, the law enforcement is on the alert. But if you could be more specific about that -- obviously, it's also the anniversary of the Waco situation -- are there particular parts of law enforcement that are on high alert? Is this the kind of thing that's been prepared coming in to? Are there plans that go into operation that perhaps start weeks ago?

KENNEDY: There are plans, both with local, federal and state law enforcement. I'm sure that there's no lack of preparation for today's anniversary.

COSSACK: Who, in particular, would law enforcement be looking at on a day like today?

KENNEDY: Particularly, because of the background of Timothy McVeigh, looking at the extreme right element in our society.

VAN SUSTEREN: Lyle, let me go back to you. And the thing that I thought about in terms of putting the execution on television and the discussion about whether to be put on the Internet. The one thing that sort of sticks with me is the risk Timothy McVeigh, who has shown absolutely no remorse, and in a book referred to the children as "collateral damage," that he's going to taunt people who have suffered so immensely in this. Do you worry about that?

COUSINS: Was that for me, Greta?

VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, do you worry he will make his last remark that is going to taunt you and give him the last word? Let him cause even more damage than he already has? COUSINS: I think it has to a lot of people. It's brought back a lot of anger, I think, people thought was buried over. I know as a Christian, you know, I'm obligated to forgive him for what he's done to me, but that doesn't mean I have to be angry. At times, I think I wasn't that angry, I didn't think about my anger as much. And hearing some of his words didn't made me very angry. It's really time for him to go.

COSSACK: Joining us now by telephone is James Horrall, the chief of police of Terre Haute, Indiana.

Chief, thanks for joining us. What plans are in place for the execution of Timothy McVeigh, which will occur in Terre Haute in just a short time?

JAMES HORRALL, TERRE HAUTE POLICE CHIEF: So far, we've canceled all days off for that week, we've extended our hours to 12-hour shifts for the protection of the city itself. We've also got two crowd control units that will be at the various parks for the demonstrators gathering, and they're being bused down to the prison.

VAN SUSTEREN: Chief, you have dueling protesters scheduled right now; those that are for the death penalty and those that are opposed to the death penalty in general -- not specifically the McVeigh, but just in general. Has your office received any indication that there's going to be a problem or a threat or any sort of issues that law enforcement issues on May 16?

HORRALL: As of yesterday we had briefing with the FBI, their intelligent reports, indicate...

VAN SUSTEREN: We're going to go now to Lou Waters in Atlanta -- Lou.




4:30pm ET, 4/16

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