One of Ours

April 19, Patriot’s Day, commemorates the beginning of the American Revolution. It is also the day in 1993 when government forces stormed the Branch Davidian Compound outside Waco, Texas, reducing it to a blazing inferno where dozens of men, women, and children perished. This event marked a substantial turning point in Timothy McVeigh’s life.

McVeigh grew up in rural New York, a good student, dutiful son, dependable neighbor. He seemingly overcame the disillusionment of his mother’s abandoning her family when he was twelve. In the same year, he received his first gun and was awestruck by its power. This awe in time became obsessive.

McVeigh’s second great disillusionment came when he attempted to join the Green Berets. Having served meritoriously in Desert Storm, he rose quickly to the rank of sergeant. He was viewed as loyal, dependable, a model to the men under his command. Back from the Gulf War, McVeigh began training with the Special Forces but, weakened by his Desert Storm experience, was unable to complete his training.

Once out of the army, McVeigh became increasingly the loner whose major interest was in attending gun shows throughout the country where he met many far right super patriots who thrived on conspiracy theories and completely distrusted governments. With the assault on the Branch Davidians, McVeigh, who had visited Waco, snapped, deciding in his calculated way to carry out against the federal government the kind of retribution outlined in THE TURNER DIARIES, his favorite book.

Richard A. Serrano has produced a thoroughly engaging study in ONE OF OURS: TIMOTHY MCVEIGH AND THE OKLAHOMA CITY BOMBING. Its psychological insights based on endless interviews, including one with McVeigh himself, present a balanced view of a highly complex and rigid personality, which, driven by unrealistic, self-righteous images, became the monster responsible for killing 168 innocent people.