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A Tosa State of Mind

Alderman Dennis McBride represents Wauwatosa's 4th District. An attorney and graduate of Wauwatosa East High School, Ald. McBride strives to be an effective, thoughtful, and nonpartisan representative for his constituents and for his hometown.

Before 9/11

Before 9/11, there was Oklahoma City.

Fifteen years ago today, a native-born American committed an act of domestic terrorism.   Timothy McVeigh, an Irish-American from Buffalo, N.Y., had served in the U.S. Army, where he had sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution and defend his country against all enemies, foreign and domestic.  Instead, after leaving his country's service, he attacked it.  He blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 innocent men, women, and children.

In his eyes, their crime was being in a building occupied by agencies of the government he had once sworn to defend.  McVeigh killed children in a day care center, citizens seeking passports and Social Security checks, and government employees doing work that their fellow citizens had hired them to do.

That day, like today, I was a federal employee doing the work I was paid to do.  That day, I lost colleagues from my agency.  I shed tears for them, and for all of the other innocent victims of an unspeakable, senseless crime.  We later learned that the Henry Reuss Federal Building in Milwaukee had been on McVeigh's short list of potential targets, too.  Not a year goes by when I don't stop on April 19th and think of my dead Oklahoma City colleagues and the other victims of McVeigh's act of domestic terrorism.  I will never get over my feelings of anger and sorrow from that day.

On September 11, 2001, our country again suffered from an act of terrorism, this time perpetrated by foreign terrorists.  The carnage was worse that day, but the message was the same as the one sent by McVeigh on April 19, 1995:  terrorists, foreign and domestic, are seeking to destroy our democratically-elected government and our way of life.  We will never recover from our feelings of anger and sorrow from the events that day. 

I understand people who are frustrated with government.  I often am frustrated, too, when my taxes are not well spent or my point of view doesn't prevail.  But there is no room in civilized society for people who blow up a university building in the name of peace, who bomb a government building in the name of freedom, or who destroy a skyscraper in the name of God.  There is no room in civilized society for those who believe that the innocent are only "collateral damage" in a political campaign in which violence is the primary tool.

Before 9/11, there was Oklahoma City.  Before Oklahoma City, there was Sterling Hall, and before that a variety of other acts of domestic terrorism throughout our history, perpetrated by extremists of the right and of the left.

We should never forget 9/11.  But we will do ourselves, and the cause of freedom, a disservice if we ever forget Oklahoma City.

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