“Oklahoma City” Is A Harrowing and Poignant Documentary
April 1995. Oklahoma City. Timothy McVeigh detonated a bomb in the back of a Ryder Truck parked inside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building, killing 168 people; nine of which were children. He cited the events at Ruby Ridge and Waco, Texas as reasons for why he carried out the attacks. Barak Goodman’s documentary, “Oklahoma City”, looks back at these events and how the situation of law enforcement versus right wing extremists, white supremacists, and those disenchanted with the government acted as a catalyst for what is the worst terrorist attack on American soil.
The first chapter of the documentary is titled “The Spark” and tells the story of what happened at Ruby Ridge. Randy Weaver and his family relocated themselves near Naples, Idaho. They lived on a mountaintop in a house they built that had no electricity and no running water; totally secluded. Not more than sixty miles from them was the Aryan Nations compound; a group of white supremacists that Randy got caught up with and befriended. When Randy didn’t show up to his court date for firearms charges, the U.S. Marshalls were tasked with moving in on his home and bringing him in. What took place was a firefight and standoff that lasted days and took the lives of Deputy U.S. Marshall William Francis Degan, Randy’s son Samuel, Randy’s wife Vicky, and the family dog. Public outcry reached an all-time high as residents of the area met officers at their roadblock and protested their actions on an innocent family.
The second chapter, “The Flame”, covers what happened in Waco, Texas at the Branch Davidians’ compound, Mt. Carmel. Their leader, David Koresh, and his followers were accused of weapons violations and when the ATF came in to raid the place, a shooting war broke out and another standoff that lasted almost two months. When the ATF moved in to bust holes in the compound and insert tear gas to cause the cult to flee their hideout, a fire broke out and within minutes the compound and everyone inside went up in flames. It was another case of a portion of the public feeling that the military was attacking innocent people in order to take away their guns. If you watch certain videos, you can make the case for the tanks the ATF sent in causing the fires, but there’s also audio recording of the followers inside saying they’re throwing fuel all over the building in a defiant stand against what they believe is wrong. One side says they took their own lives; the other side claims it was a mass murder.
The third and final chapter is “The Inferno”. This part of the film gives the whole history of Timothy McVeigh’s life. From his time as a picked on awkward teen, to his time spent in the army, his subsequent hatred for the government, and the rage he felt at the events at Ruby Ridge and Waco. McVeigh was also under the belief that the government wanted to take away his rights to have firearms and this didn’t sit well with him. Thinking the government would never pay attention unless there was a body count, Mcveigh plans and executes the bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah building in Oklahoma City.
It’s interesting the way Barak Goodman ties all of these things together and even more interesting the way he delivers the information. He doesn’t necessarily pick sides as much as he lays out the facts and lets the viewer form their own opinion. What it turns into is a horrific documentary that serves as a reminder of the times we are currently living in. How an attack like this seems like something that happened so long ago but how easy it is to think it could happen again. It’s also depressing to think that so many innocent lives were taken over a love for firearms and the thought process that White America needs to rise up once again. Where “The Catcher In the Rye” speaks to people about how life was like for them at such a formidable age, people that relate and sympathize with the extreme right seem to hold “The Turner Diaries” in the same regard. It’s a book that imagines a group of people overthrowing the government resulting in nuclear war and ultimately a race war. It’s a book Timothy McVeigh carried around and read often.
The scariest part about this group of people that seem to be violent in nature and close-minded is they aren’t dumb. They’ve always been around but only recently seem to be more confident going into public and getting their message out there. Racism is a very real thing that is a smear on our Nation’s history but one that we can’t just sit back and ignore. I personally hope that it doesn’t take another event like Oklahoma City to wake everyone up again, but this documentary shows that that is a very real threat.
As horrific as its subject is, “Oklahoma City” is a documentary I feel everyone should watch and it is currently streaming on Netflix.