Bud Welch lost his only child, Julie Marie, in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. She had worked as a translator in the Alfred P. Murrah building for just five months when Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols blew it up in what remains our nation’s largest domestic terror attack. When Bud saw a news clip of McVeigh’s father, he saw a man who was as lost and broken as he was. Eventually he reached out to Bill McVeigh. The two men became friends, and Bud began to work against the execution of Timothy McVeigh, having realized that his healing process—and his sense of peace—would not involve the death of one more person. Despite Bud’s efforts, McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001, but Bud has gone on to work against capital punishment around the world.
“That’s the big lie that family members are told. That once he’s executed then you’ll be relieved and you can go on. Just the opposite actually happens.”
Bill said, “Bud, can you cry?” I thought, why is he asking me this question? And I said, “Yeah, Bill. I can. And I don’t have much trouble doing so.” He said, “All of my adult life, I’ve been unable to cry. My father was much the same way. I’ve had a lot to cry about the last three and a half years, but I just can’t do it.”
After a long silence at the kitchen table, Bill looked up at the wall and he said, “That’s Timmy’s high school graduation picture.” When he said it, a great big tear rolled out of his right eye down his cheek. This father could cry for his son. It helped me tremendously to meet him and go through that stage of what I call restorative justice. At that moment, his son was in Florence, Colorado, on death row. And I didn’t want to see him die.
On June 11, 2001, a Monday morning at 7:00 a.m., we took Tim McVeigh from his cage in Terre Haute, Indiana, and we killed him. There was nothing about that event that brought me any peace. In fact, I felt revictimized. After that day. Bill McVeigh and I had one thing in common: We had both buried our children. They died in very different ways, but we had both buried our children.
Before Tim’s execution, I started feeling like I was forgiving him. It’s a process and it takes time. I don’t know how to teach that, but I know that I went through it. I can tell you one thing: Forgiveness doesn’t do a damn thing for the killers. You totally release yourself. That’s where the good comes from.
Scenes from the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum
Bud Welch full podcast
- Have you ever forgiven someone when it was difficult for you? Did forgiving them give you peace?
- Has someone ever forgiven you when it was likely difficult for them? How did it change the relationship?
- Have you ever turned something difficult into something positive? How? How did that shift the experience?
- How do you heal and repair yourself in difficult situations?
- What is something you have or have done that you are proud of?
- How do you hold on to your values in times of adversity?
- How does mass violence affect our well being as a society?
- How does the media shape the way we respond to incidents of mass violence?
- What is one concrete thing you could do to be more compassionate in your life?
- What is the best description of who you are?
- Describe a time when you connected with someone whom you’d thought it would be impossible for you to have something in common.
- Are there feelings that you are holding on to that don’t serve you? What would need to happen for you to let them go?
- What is a cause that you are invested in? How did you first get involved?