OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. – Sunday marks the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, a domestic terrorism attack that killed 168 people, including 19 children, and injured many others.
On the morning of April 19, 1995, a truck packed with explosives was detonated outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. Until September 11, the bombing was the worst terrorist attack to take place on United States soil.
The blast was set off by Timothy McVeigh, who was later convicted on 11 counts and executed for his crimes through lethal injection. His co-conspirators, Terry Nichols and Michael Fortier, were also convicted and sentenced to prison.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) says the convictions were thanks to efforts of Special Agent Barry Black and scores of federal, state, and local investigators. The event shaped the FBI’s approach to investigating terrorism.
Special Agent Barry Black
The FBI says Black was tracking a white-collar fugitive a few miles from downtown Oklahoma City when he heard a loud blast in the distance. Soon after, he was pulled from his fugitive case to begin working the massive investigation, which uncovered more than three tons of evidence.
After the bombing, the FBI says one of Black’s responsibilities was tracking items from the point of collection to the FBI Laboratory, where they were examined and logged.
One of the crucial pieces of evidence that Black found early in the investigation was a badly damaged rear axle. He jotted down the vehicle identification number (VIN), which was used to trace the part to the Ryder rental truck used to detonate the bomb.
Employees at the shop where the truck was rented helped the FBI put together the composite drawing of McVeigh, who had used an alias during that transaction. Local hotel employees recognized the man in the sketch as one of their guests and that’s how authorities were able to identify and track down McVeigh.
Remembering the victims
Now, Black has retired from the FBI, but he continues to share the story of his involvement in the investigation. Along with national speaking engagements with military organizations and law enforcement agencies, he leads tours with the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum’s First Person: Stories of Hope program.
Built on the former site of the Murrah Building, the museum honors victims, survivors, and first responders affected by the bombing.
The museum was scheduled to hold a ceremony to remember the victims on the 25th anniversary, but the event had to be canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic. Instead, it will offer a one-hour television and online program that includes the reading of the names of the 168 people killed in the bombing. The memorial will be held Sunday at 9 a.m. CT.