Six years after committing the deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil, a silent, defiant Timothy McVeigh was executed today before hundreds of victims and family members, leaving only a written statement that concluded: "I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul."
With his eyes staring straight at the ceiling, McVeigh, 33, was pronounced dead at 7:14 a.m. local time in Terre Haute, Ind., said prison warden Harley Lappin. McVeigh chose not to make a final statement, but released a copy of the 1875 poem Invictus, in his handwriting.
The convicted Oklahoma City bomber was the first federal prisoner executed since 1963.
"It's over," said Janice Smith, whose brother Lanny Scroggins died in the bombing.
"We don't have to continue with him anymore."
In Washington, President Bush gave a brief statement marking McVeigh's death. "The victims of the Oklahoma City bombing have been given not vengeance, but justice, and one young man met the fate he chose for himself six years ago," he said.
McVeigh's lawyer, Rob Nigh, said the execution may not ease people's wounds. "If killing Tim McVeigh does not bring peace or closure to them, I suggest to you that it is our fault," he said. "We have told them we would help heal their wounds in this way. We have taken it upon ourselves to promise to extract vengeance for them. We have made killing a part of the healing process."
‘We Are Ready’
For all the public attention surrounding the execution, the act itself was carried out clinically, methodically and with little fanfare.
Shortly after 7 a.m., McVeigh boosted himself on the execution gurney and was strapped down by prison officials, the warden said. Wrapped tightly in a light gray sheet, McVeigh strained to look around the facility trying to make eye contact with the various witnesses to his execution, said reporters who watched him die.
The execution began when a prison official said: "We are ready."
When the chemicals began dripping through the yellow and gray intravenous tubing into his right leg around 7:10 a.m., McVeigh's skin and lips became pale. Minutes later, witnesses said McVeigh made a few spasm-like movements.
As he took his final breaths, he made no additional movement and was described by one media witness as "seeming proud."
Just a few moments later, he was pronounced dead. Along with four witnesses for McVeigh — including two of his attorneys — 10 media witnesses and 10 victims' representatives who watched from behind glass in the execution facility, about 200 bombing survivors and victims' relatives watched McVeigh die on closed-circuit television in Oklahoma City.
As he lay dying on the gurney, he stared up at the ceiling into the camera that relayed his image miles away to Oklahoma City, where some observers said he appeared to be "glaring" at them. Witnesses said he died with his eyes open, fixed on the ceiling.
Attorney General John Ashcroft was in Oklahoma City to meet with victims and family members, but did not watch the execution.
For one survivor, there was justice in watching McVeigh die over the closed-circuit broadcast, but no closure. "When I die and they lay me in my grave, I'll have closure," said Kathleen Treanor, whose daughter and in-laws died in the bombing.
McVeigh's body was taken away from the execution facility for cremation, and his ashes will be spread in an undisclosed location. At McVeigh's request, no members of his family traveled to Terre Haute.