What Timothy McVeigh's Dad Really Thinks About His Terrorist Son

On the morning of April 19, 1995, an explosion went off in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and an entire side of the nine-story structure was decimated. The explosion originated from a Ryder truck that was parked in front of the building, which was filled with a bomb that was made of a concoction of fuel, chemicals, and fertilizer (via FBI). Authorities and emergency services quickly reported to the location, and it was assumed that the act was perpetrated by terrorists from the Middle East.

The damage was so massive that rescue efforts were completed two weeks after the incident, and the death toll reached 168, which included 19 kids who were at the daycare center in the building. In addition, as reported by History, another 650 people were left injured, and hundreds of buildings surrounding the explosion site were also ravaged. The FBI immediately worked to find the person responsible for the bombing, and clues pointed to Timothy McVeigh, a decorated Army veteran who fought in the Persian Gulf War.

Timothy McVeigh's background

Timothy McVeigh was born on April 23, 1968, and grew up in the small town of Pendleton, New York. His father, William, worked at a radiator plant while his mother, Mildred, worked for a travel agency. In his teen years, McVeigh's parents divorced and he lived with his father. According to Biography, it was at that time that he became interested in guns and shooting.

McVeigh was an intelligent boy and was offered a partial scholarship after high school. He studied business but didn't finish college, as he dropped out to join the Army, where he thrived and was a model soldier. As reported by CNN, McVeigh was sent to fight in the Persian Gulf War. He took an early discharge and became a civilian in 1991. According to William, he observed noticeable changes in his son after he returned from the war. He recalled how his son, who he called Timmy, was always happy and smiling when he was a child, but he no longer saw that same person when Timothy returned from the Persian Gulf. As his aunt said, he looked "broken" when he returned.

The Oklahoma City Bomber

William McVeigh, known as Bill, recounted the time he was told that his son Timothy was responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing. He was about to go to bed after he returned from his midnight shift at work when he received a call from an FBI agent who wanted to go to his house to speak with him, per Lima Ohio. Agents arrived at his doorstep and asked to search his home, telling him that his son was a suspected terrorist. He allowed them to go through the house, and on the following day, he traveled to Oklahoma to visit his son in jail.

It was difficult for Bill to fathom how his son could have killed 168 people. He said Timothy was just a regular kid, and he was aware of the changes in him when he came back from war, but he never imagined his son was capable of doing such a horrific crime. Bill is often asked if he had ever forgiven his son, and he stated that it was a tough question to answer. "How can you forgive him for killing 168 people? You can't. He's my son, but he did something that was terribly wrong," he said in an interview with The New York Times.

Bill's last meeting with Timothy

On June 2, 1997, Timothy McVeigh was convicted of his crimes and was sentenced to death by lethal injection. Before he was sentenced, his parents — Bill and Mildred — pleaded for the jury to spare his life, as reported by The Irish Times. In court, Bill said that he understood the gravity of his son's actions, but said that he loves him and wants him to live. Despite their pleading, the jury unanimously agreed to the death penalty.

Throughout the years of his son's incarceration, Bill visited several times and even wrote him letters. Phone calls between the two also occurred about twice a month. Timothy stopped his appeals in December 2000 and requested for a date of his execution to be scheduled. Bill visited his son for the last time on April 10, 2001. During their conversation, the elder McVeigh asked his son to apologize to the family of his victims, but his son refused and told him that if he did, it wouldn't be genuine, as he would only be doing it for the sake of other people (via The Oklahoman). Timothy didn't want any family members to attend his execution, and he wanted his lawyer to have his ashes. At that time, although Bill knew that his son was ready to die, he said that he'll never be ready to lose him. Timothy was executed on June 11, 2001. He was 33 years old.

How Bill feels toward his son

Bill McVeigh has always said in interviews that he loved his son, Timothy, but he didn't like what he did. Just before his son was executed, Bill told Napa Valley Register that he was disappointed that his son never apologized to the families of his victims but said that he expected it. He also said that he didn't agree with his son's political views, which made him think that the attack he did was justified. Nevertheless, Bill said that he will always remember his son as the little Timmy that he loved and not the Timothy who bombed a building and killed 169 people.

Bill retired from his work at the radiator plant in 1999, and he spends his days playing golf and bowling. In an interview with NBC News in 2005, McVeigh said that his son is on his mind almost every single day. And that's all he can do; the family doesn't have a place to visit to remember Timothy, as it was his request to scatter his ashes at an undisclosed location.

Bill McVeigh's friendship with a bombing victim's father

Throughout the years, Bill has formed friendships with some of the parents of his son's victims. One of them is Bud Welch, who lost his daughter Julie in the bombing. Welch said that he's concerned for McVeigh, as he has a tendency of keeping his emotions and thoughts to himself. "I think he'd be better off if he'd let some emotions out," Welch shared in an interview with NBC News. Welch and McVeigh first met in 1998. The meeting was emotional, but Welch said that he didn't blame McVeigh for his son's actions (via The Guardian). It was also during that meeting when Welch realized that Bill, too, was a victim.

In 2020 just before the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing, author Jeanne Bishop released a book titled "Grace from the Rubble," which tells the story of the friendship between Welch and McVeigh, per Publisher's Weekly.