By Major Van Harl USAF Ret
Wisconsin --(Ammoland.com)- An old Air Force friend called me from San Antonio, Texas one day when I was living on Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma and asked if I wanted to have lunch the following day.
We were both “cops” in the Air Force back in the early 1980s. Since I was in Altus I was not sure how he planned to make this happen. What he did was he got on a plane and flew to Oklahoma City where I picked him up and we went out to eat.
In the 1970s I was in the gun business in the Chicago area. I once had an Episcopalian minister as a customer who bought a 12 gage pump shotgun, a .308 Winchester bolt action rifle and a 9 millimeter pistol in one day. All while wearing his religious collar on his shirt. He explained he was headed back to his church in Rhodesia and his collar was not necessarily going to protect him out in the African bush.
As he was leaving the gun shop with his new weapons, he looked at me and stated “watch out for terrorists.”
And that line has stuck with me to this day. For years I have used that line as I depart from people. In the 1980s it usually got a laugh. My friend from San Antonio and I have said that expression to each other for 25 years. I retired as an active duty Air Force cop and my friend is a retired Air Force reserve cop. So we both have many years in the anti-terrorism game. That line does not get much of a laugh these days. My friend is a very successful lawyer, dealing in the world of justice or sometimes the lack there-of.
We decided to go the Oklahoma City National Memorial, the site of the Murrah Federal Building bombing. Neither of us had ever been there and after walking the grounds we went into the museum. I had recently attended a Homeland Security conference were one of the primary speakers was a senior Oklahoma City Fire Department Captain. He had given a very in-depth presentation of the bombing and rescue operation. So even though I had never been in downtown Oklahoma City I was able to pick out buildings and landmarks as I drove around looking for a parking space.
The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was the target of Timothy McVeigh because of what it was–a United States Federal piece of property, which held criminal and social Federal enforcement or regulatory agencies (ie-FBI, IRS, BATF.) He was attacking working symbols of our Constitution. Other than the Civil War this was the worst domestic attack on the Constitution of the United States our country has experienced. For me the quality of the displays and presentations of the museum were extremely gripping.
You very quickly came to understand the total helplessness the survivors must have felt in the early moments of the aftermath of the explosion and the destruction of what only seconds before had been a safe work environment.
My friend’s young son had been murdered a number of years ago. So, as we came down the stairs to the second floor we walked right into the “displayed image” area with the pictures of the 168 people killed by the bombing. The pictures of the children are separate and set forward of the adults. And it grabs your heart. I could only imagine what was going on in my friends mind. Many of these young victims were his son’s age.
In an interview with Timothy McVeigh the convicted bomber and mass murderer, he had stated the children were “collateral damage” and that he expressed remorse only that their deaths damaged his “cause.”
Collateral damage meaning the unfortunate innocent souls, who got in the way of the “deliverer” of death and destruction.
I have to believe that none of the family and friends of the victims see their loved ones as collateral damage and for sure not the children. As we walked away from the photos my friend, the seasoned trial lawyer, stated “you have to wonder about justice.” How do you ever get justice for 168 dead Americans with the conviction of one domestic terrorist? Then we had the 9-11 attacks on New York City and the Pentagon, will there ever be justice there?
The visit to the Oklahoma City National Memorial rekindled in my mind that Episcopalian minister’s words; “watch out for terrorists.” But also please remember the words of most Federal, State and local oaths-of-office “to defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies foreign and domestic.” And now of course we have the mass shooting of 20 children and the adults who gave their lives trying to protect those innocent little people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut.
I have no explanation for this act of evil domestic terrorism.
You do not have to have a political agenda to justify why you slaughter two dozen people in order to terrorize an entire town and a Nation. I can only offer to parents and families of the murdered children the suggestion they contact The Compassionate Friends (www.compassionatefriends.org / 877-969-0010). This organization is there to help parents who have lost a child. Meaningful kind words are not all that will be needed in the future for these grieving families. The help and support of an organization that truly understands and works daily, dealing with the trauma of a lost child may help to ease the pain.
However, do not look for justice–it is only a word that eases no pain.Major Van Harl USAF Ret.
About Major Van Harl USAF Ret.:
Major Van E. Harl USAF Ret. , is a career Police Officer in the U.S. Air Force was born in Burlington, Iowa, USA, in 1955. He was the Deputy Chief of police at two Air Force Bases and the Commander of Law Enforcement Operations at another. Now retired, these days he enjoys camping, traveling, volunteering with the Girl Scouts and writing. email@example.com