Twenty years ago this Sunday, Timothy McVeigh detonated a 4,800-pound fertilizer bomb at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, leaving 168 dead. USA Today says the legacy of the bombing lives in a response McVeigh never saw coming: a campaign that altered the landscape of victims’ rights. When McVeigh was convicted and sentenced to death, families of the victims convinced U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to broadcast McVeigh’s execution at an Indiana federal prison back to Oklahoma where survivors and victims’ families wanted to see final justice for themselves.
Some of the concessions the Oklahoma City victims won served as a template when the prosecution of the 9/11 attacks moved to a courtroom in Virginia. They informed the responses to virtually every other mass casualty event since, from Tucson to Boston. “I remember the depth of feeling that people had,” Ashcroft told USA Today, recalling an emotional 2001 meeting with more than 100 Oklahoma victims to discuss the unprecedented closed-circuit local broadcast of the execution. “This was some years after the event. But there were wounds yet unhealed,” he said.