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Crimes

Americans Target Their Own: Oklahoma City Bombing (April 19, 1995)

Oklahoma_city_01_TimeMagazineWhen a bomb tore apart the Alfred P. Murrah federal office building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995 I had been at my new job as media research director at New York ad agency Foote Cone & Belding for just a month.  It was a sunny Wednesday afternoon and I was at my desk in my office in the GM Building.  In the background I had the "oldies" radio station WCBS playing (the radio was in the style of one from the 1930s, a send-off gift from my old staff).  It was from that radio that I first heard the shocking news about the explosion that occurred earlier in the morning.

  

The front of the building had been completely blown off and the death toll slowly mounted as the days went by (the final toll was 168 with nearly 700 injured).  I found it curious when initial reports mentioned children being among the many casualties.  I thought that perhaps a group of students had been on a field trip there.  Later when I got home is when I heard that a daycare center for workers' children was in the building. 

 

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At first many jumped to the conclusion that this was the act of Muslim terrorists, so it was surprising when the FBI showed sketches the next day of two suspects who were Caucasian.  Indications were that the attack was carried out by US citizens who were part of a burgeoning anti-government "militia" movement.  It annoyed me that reporters regularly remarked how awful it was that such an attack happened in "the heartland" as if it would have been less of a tragedy if it occurred in a big city on the East or West Coast.

 

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Six years later the driver of the bomb-laden truck, Timothy McVeigh, was executed by lethal injection on June 11, 2001, three months before the attacks on 9-11 - which would surpass the Oklahoma City bombing as the worst terrorist attack on the US mainland.

 


Elizabeth Smart Escapes Her Captors (March 12, 2003)

Elizabeth_smart_as_childFrom March 11-13, 2003 I was attending a Nielsen research conference at the Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliff resort north of Phoenix.  After the second day's sessions had ended at 4:15 I went back to my suite to relax a bit before heading out to an evening rodeo when my friend Nina, who was also at the conference, called to tell me the shocking news that 15-year-old Elizabeth Smart had been rescued.  Elizabeth had been kidnapped nine months earlier from her home in a suburb of Salt Lake City and was rescued just eighteen miles away in Sandy, Utah.  After Nina's call I turned on CNN to watch its coverage of the news conference with police. 

 

 

 

Elizabeth_smart_wedding_peopleThis was an unexpectedly wonderful turn of events since kidnappings all too often end tragically, bringing to mind high-profile cases such as those of Adam Walsh, Polly Klaus and Etan Patz .  Nine years after her escape Elizabeth was married on February 18 in Hawaii. 


Bobbitt, Menendez & Harding - Oh My! (January 1994)

Some newsworthy events unfold over a course of weeks so they can't be pin downed to one moment in time.  Such was the case of the unrelenting cold and snow of January 1994 and a number of high-profile criminal cases that received considerable attention in the same month. 

 

Iceonhudson For much of the nation it was one of the coldest and snowiest Januarys on record.  New York was hit by a lot of sleet and freezing rain; a number of sub-zero mornings caused ice to form on the Hudson and East Rivers (which I could see from my office at ad agency NWAyer on the 34th floor of Worldwide Plaza on West 50th St.), making for slow going for river traffic.  In the middle of the month I tried to escape the brutal cold by flying down to Orlando where I made my first visit to Disney World and Epcot.  Unfortunately the Arctic chill followed me (the same misfortune befell me two years later when I took a vaction in Key West in February).

 

Tonya.hardingMenendez _brothers Lorena.bobbit Before the introduction of the "reality" TV format, there was Court TV (now called truTV). During this frigid and inclement month I got into the habit of watching it because of its "gavel to gavel" coverage of a number of headline grabbing cases.  First was the trial of Lorena Bobbitt who cut off her husband's penis while he slept and then tossed it out of her car window.  Less salacious, but equally riveting, was the trial of the Menendez brothers, Lyle and Eric, for the murder of their wealthy parents.  (Even more attention was generated due to the brothers' flamboyant attorney, Leslie Abramson.)  Then feisty figure skater Tonya Harding was added to the mix when she was implicated in the pipe bashing of her rival Nancy Kerrigan a few days before the U.S. Figure Skating Championships and one month before the Winter Olympics. (Besides Court TV these cases received exhaustive coverage from CNN, Nightline and the Big 3's evening news shows.)

 

 

   

Star_jones Toobin These cases also made celebs of legal analysts Jeffrey Toobin and Star "before The View" Jones (who knew she had a law degree?).  I suppose these tawdry cases were a welcome diversion from that winter's onslaught.  Of course, this was all just a prelude to the huge media circus created later in the year as the OJ Simpson murder case unfolded.