Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Oklahoma City 10 years on

As I started writing this, the cable news channels were covering ceremonies marking the 10th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. And I remembered a conversation I had with NBC's Tim Russert just about 10 years ago.
Russert had come to Cleveland to give a speech to the Ohio Association of Broadcasters and possibly to revisit old haunts, since he had gone to John Carroll University and the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law. But the Oklahoma City bombing the day before his arrival had made the trip a much shorter one. Russert was scrambling to put together a new panel for that Sunday's "Meet the Press." (He had come to Cleveland on a Thursday.) The show had planned to deal with the budget deficit and taxes; now there was only one story worth considering.
Not that everyone at that moment really knew what the story was. As I mentioned in a column at the time, Russert spent some of his Cleveland time on making sure he had Middle East expert Robin Wright as a guest on his show that week.
But don't think Russert was alone in thinking -- in those hours after the bombing -- that such a monumental act of terrorism had to come from overseas. The assumption was pretty widespread at first. Still, given what we later learned about Oklahoma City, it does demonstrate the danger of following conventional wisdom. And because of Oklahoma City, when 9/11 made a national nightmare real there was a moment when I wondered if, once again, danger had come from within.

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