McVeigh's Final Day Before Execution

HERBECK Well, he is an agnostic. He doesn't believe in God, but he has told us he doesn't not believe in God.… Death is part of his adventure, as he describes it to us. And hee told us that when he finds out if there is an afterlife, he will improvise, adapt and overcome just like they taught him in the Army.

DONALDSON Well, Lou, I've got to observe that there is a great saying from World War II: "There are no atheists in the fox holes." The true soldiers of this country, I think, perhaps have expressed that view.

But let me now read just a passage of a poem, that I understand and you tell me, that McVeigh either wants to read or have out there on his death. It's from "Invictus" by William Ernest Henley, and I'll read the last stanza. And it goes this way: It matters not how straight the gate, how charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.

What do you make of that, Lou?

MICHEL I think it's classic Timothy McVeigh in the sense that he has never marched to the beat of any drummer but himself. Very independent and doesn't see it… It's defiance, too, in a sense that he's going out and he feels that he succeeded.

He once told me that in the crudest of terms it's 168-to-1, and he feels he is the victor. He has made his point, and he is now going on to whatever is the next step.

DONALDSON So when he says he's sorry before then, talking about that's the nature of the game, we really shouldn't look at that word "sorry" as meaning anything in the terms that we might understand it if we were saying it to someone in a way of true contrition?

MICHEL No, it would be a mistake to extrapolate from that that he has remorse for the bombing. He sincerely believes he did what was necessary to the U.S. government. He wanted a body count. He called it the collateral damage, the fortunes of war.

DONALDSON In the many hours you spent with him in writing your book, aside from his stated reasons, Waco, his hatred for the United States government, did you get any insight of what really may have made this guy tick? Dan:

HERBECK Sam, I think that one of the things that we write about in our book, which hasn't been talked about that much, is his deep love for his grandfather. And when he was a young man, a young boy, his grandfather would take him out for long walks along the Erie Canal and he taught him how to shoot and he taught him all about gun safety. And there was no one in the world that Tim loved more than his grandfather.

And I think that later on in life, when he felt the U.S. government was trying to take guns away from himself and other gun owners, I think he really viewed that as an assault in a way on his relationship with his grandfather, who he loved so much. And I think that was in the mix in what led him to Oklahoma City.

DONALDSON Well, I believe I'm correct that you have not spoken to him recently. And I have been given to understand, though, that through family members — McVeigh family members — he sort of sent word that if you have something to say to him, you ought to say it to him.

Dan, do you have anything to say at this point to Timothy McVeigh?

HERBECK Hmm. I guess I would just say to him that I hope that in his final words he does not say anything hurtful toward the victims of Oklahoma City. Those people have been hurt enough, and I think he realizes that. I'd be very surprised if he makes any more hurtful statements tomorrow.

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