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Where were you on April 19?

Where were you on April 19?

On April 19, 1993 I was on a long drive toward a client’s headquarters when I heard the Branch Davidians were burning. For some reason I hadn’t taken the siege very seriously to that point (even though I’d taken the earlier Weaver siege as seriously as I’d ever taken anything in my life). Just a bunch of Jim Jonesy cultists, I thought. I figured the FBI would wait them out until Koresh got done with his preposterous “seven seals” manuscript, then peaceably arrest and later release most of them. Cause you know, why would the FBI want to do more harm now than they and the ATF had already done? Silly me.

On April 19, 1995 I don’t recall where I was physically. I just recall wondering how anybody could attack ATF and FBI offices and manage only to kill innocents, including babies and toddlers. Oh, why did it have to be babies and toddlers? I recall thinking, “Oh sh*t, everything gets a lot worse from here.” (Rince and repeat 6-1/2 years later.)

So where were you? Physically, mentally, politically, and otherwise during those two cruelest months?


On this April 19, I’ll be out in the sunshine, sweating as I move leftover materials from last year’s house projects to better, more long-term places. On this April 19, I’m two days past having rid myself of those three heavy boxes that were my last tangible connection to the Weaver tragedy.

The intangible connections are harder to shake. Impossible, actually. But sunshine, sweat, and decluttering help. In the end, there’s nothing to do but go on living.


And for some reason this all reminds me of that other T.S. Eliot poem, “The Hollow Men.” Don’t read unless you’re up for a downer. Complete with scholarly annotations. It was a favorite of mine when I was young and bleak. Now I’m old and much happier, but some things truly don’t change.


  1. MamaLiberty
    MamaLiberty April 19, 2015 11:41 am

    I was just getting started on staff at “The Sierra Times,” I think, and was immersed in the horror of Waco and a lot of other things I’d managed to avoid before, since I didn’t have a TV, didn’t listen to radio, seldom bought a newspaper and was new to the internet. It was a very rude awakening to just how seriously wrong things were all over the globe… and I’ve never been able to avoid it so thoroughly since.

    The murder of millions of women and children, as “collateral damage” in “war” and starvation by blockade in places like Iraq, seem to me to be equally wrong and horrifying, even though we don’t see many pictures of those.

    But as to where I was on that specific date… I really don’t know. Probably working, driving 300 miles all over So. Calif. to see patients.

  2. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal April 19, 2015 12:40 pm

    That day I was at home near Gunnison, Colorado. I had just come in from outside (where I spent the vast majority of my time) and saw the beginning of the mass murder on TV. I told my 5 1/2 year old son that what he was seeing on TV was government killing people, and that it was something he should never forget.
    I’ll text him now and see if he remembers.

  3. jed
    jed April 19, 2015 12:45 pm

    In 1993, I think I was pretty much not paying attention to US and world news. I had just started a new job, and was living in the foothills of the Rockies. 2 years later, I was either under- or unemployed, barely scraping by. I do recall hearing about the Murrah bombing on the news, though.

    The event I most associate with today, though, is the start of American Revolutionary War.

    And, instead of sitting on my butt, I ought to have gone to Westcliffe.

  4. Claire
    Claire April 19, 2015 12:51 pm

    Kent — Would love to hear if your son does remember (both the burning and what you told him).

  5. LarryA
    LarryA April 19, 2015 2:25 pm

    I live a bit over three hours from Waco, and watched it on TV. That evening we went to something at my daughter’s high school, and even those who had been talking about “that cult” were shaken.

    My initial reaction to the Murrah building, like yours, was “Crap. This will get blamed on the militia movement and gun owners.” After all, it was barely six months since the “assault weapon” ban. But when the gun control crowd ran up that flag I began to see, for the first time, neutral people skeptical of the idea that gun control could stop fertilizer bombs.

    But I agree with Jed:

    By the rude bridge that arched the flood,
    Their flag to April’s breeze unfurled,
    Here once the embattled farmers stood,
    And fired the shot heard round the world.

    The foe long since in silence slept;
    Alike the conqueror silent sleeps;
    And Time the ruined bridge has swept
    Down the dark stream which seaward creeps.

    On this green bank, by this soft stream,
    We set to-day a votive stone;
    That memory may their deed redeem,
    When, like our sires, our sons are gone.

    Spirit, that made those heroes dare,
    To die, and leave their children free,
    Bid Time and Nature gently spare
    The shaft we raise to them and thee.

    Today I taught a mother and daughter how to shoot.

  6. Kent McManigal
    Kent McManigal April 19, 2015 3:13 pm

    My son says he doesn’t remember watching it with me, or my saying that- but says the government was so proud of it they made sure it was shown often enough to make an impression in the years since then.

  7. jed
    jed April 19, 2015 4:57 pm

    Today I taught a mother and daughter how to shoot.

    No better way to celebrate the holiday.


  8. Jesse Bogan
    Jesse Bogan April 19, 2015 8:42 pm

    Montgomery County Maryland elementary school made my 10 year old son, and his entire class (presumably school wide) watch the burning of Waco. I was already an aware person, but that event changed my perception forever. He is on the road today, but I will ask him if he remembers…

  9. Eric Oppen
    Eric Oppen April 19, 2015 9:15 pm

    I was watching the debacle on TV, and cursing the name and ancestry of Janet Reno in every language I know.

  10. LarryA
    LarryA April 19, 2015 9:39 pm

    As for Reno, I was thinking, “And no one in the room with her thought ‘April 19, now why does that date seem familiar?'”

    Of course that hasn’t changed much:

    Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz’s argument that the Second Amendment provides the “ultimate check against government tyranny” is a bit too extreme for potential 2016 rival and fellow Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).

    “Well, we tried that once in South Carolina. I wouldn’t go down that road again,” Graham said, in an apparent reference to the Civil War. “I think an informed electorate is probably a better check than, you know, guns in the streets.”

    Graham is from South Carolina? The Swamp Fox is spinning in his grave.

  11. david
    david April 20, 2015 6:44 am

    I don’t know where I was April 19, 1993, but I do know where I was on May 4th, 1970. And that year, May 3 was the last day I had any trust or faith in government. ANY government.

    On the very next day I realized that government would willingly kill any ‘inconvenient’ citizens, blame the murders on the dead, and scurry like a pack of rats to bury the evidence before the corpses could cause a public stink.

    So the murder of the Branch Davidians didn’t surprise me much. Ruby Ridge had gone sort of under my radar – but once I heard that the fedthugs had kept out the local law and fire trucks and reporters, I pretty much knew there would be another massacre. I didn’t expect the burning, but probably should have. Burning them out effectively destroyed all the evidence and eliminated ALL possible witnesses. Every living person who might have seen what happened was now a participant, so silence was ensured.

    No roofing with machine gun bullet holes in it. No wounded to rush to the hospital. No walls with bullet holes. Nothing. Not one shred of physical or human evidence left to contradict the fedthug version of events. For all we know they walked thru the burnt rubble and double tapped any body that still had flesh on it. Talk about the ‘disappeared ones’…. Now we all know what to expect on the march to world government, when they decide to flip that switch – so we can make our choices now about what we will and won’t do or die for.

  12. "lee n. field"
    "lee n. field" April 20, 2015 7:53 am

    Where was I — Waco: I was at work, at a computer/appliance store. I came downstairs into the main store, to find every TeeVee in the place showing the burning.

    OK City — still at same place of work. Watching the talking heads saying this had “Middle East written all over it”. One individual on the tube mentioned that there was an ATF office in the building. Something in my mind clicked — I knew it was domestic.

  13. Laird
    Laird April 20, 2015 8:23 am

    I know where I was on that April 19 (in the office, as usual), and while I was aware that the Branch Davidian siege was going on I don’t remember being particularly interested in it. It wasn’t until much later that I learned about the real events of that day.

    LarryA, if you want to know why Lindsey Graham is our senator (I live in SC), in what is widely considered “the reddest of the red states”, it’s entirely due to open primaries. In this state we don’t register by party, and anyone can vote in any party’s primary election; the only limitation is that you can only vote in one each time. Graham (and a lot of other pseudo-Republicans) are in office solely because Democrats vote in the Republican primaries. (I know of one poll worker who claims that she spent almost all of the last primary election day “cancelling ballots”. People would come in, say they were Democrats, then come back to the registration table complaining that they wanted to vote for Graham but he wasn’t on their ballot. So the ballot had to be cancelled and they re-voted in the Republican primary.) Graham is widely despised by Republicans here. There is strong support for “closed primaries” (you would have to register with a specific party to vote in its primary), and it’s even in the Republican Party’s official platform, but there are several powerful senators who refuse to allow it out of committee and to a floor vote. There is an active grass-roots movement to get this changed, but it’s not going to succeed this term.

    Claire, I generally like TS Eliot, but I have to confess that I don’t really understand that poem. The last line is deservedly famous, of course, but the rest is eminently forgettable.

  14. Matt, another
    Matt, another April 20, 2015 11:15 am

    Where were you on April 19th, always reminds me of the book, April Morning by (i think) Howard Fast.

  15. M
    M April 20, 2015 2:50 pm

    I spent the 18th and 19th teaching almost a dozen new or newish shooters and a dozen not so newish. Throw in a little American history, and a good day was had by all.

    I’m apparently on the younger end of your audience, as Waco and OKC were both *very* foggy for me, while Columbine is both easier to remember and of note as a marker for the start of my realization of just how messed up the public school system, gun control, and similar things are.

  16. LarryA
    LarryA April 20, 2015 10:35 pm

    April Morning by (yes) Howard Fast.

    What did you think of the movie?

  17. MacBeth51
    MacBeth51 April 21, 2015 12:39 am

    April 19, 1995, I was about 4 1/2 mile South of the Murrah bldg. My wife was at work 2 1/2 miles further South. The concussion flapped the doors on the building she was in.

  18. Paul Bonneau
    Paul Bonneau April 21, 2015 7:13 am

    [I didn’t expect the burning, but probably should have. Burning them out effectively destroyed all the evidence and eliminated ALL possible witnesses.]

    Don’t forget the bulldozer. The perfect way to treat a crime scene – if you’re the criminal…

    I don’t really know where I was or what I was doing, and I wonder how others remember so far back. At the time I was not following Ruby Ridge and Waco much, although I at least had the sense to not believe the govt version of those events. I spent more time reading about them later on.

    I do remember one interesting thing about Oklahoma City though. Remember Clinton was trying his best to pin it on militias? There was a poll around that time from one of the large polling organizations asking people what they feared more, the militias or the government. The government “won” that one by a mile. The poll results were subsequently buried, and I have not been able to find it later. Kinda embarrassing, heh…

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