Mother of bombing victim reacts to verdict

June 03, 1997

McVeigh guilty in Okla. bombing case

Victim's mom: McVeigh does not think like most people


Staff Writer

BOONSBORO - Bette Whicher was at the doctor's office Monday afternoon when the verdict she had been waiting for was read.

Whicher, whose son Alan Whicher was one of 168 people killed in the April 19, 1995, Oklahoma bomb blast, said that on the way home she figured she would catch the last 10 minutes of a radio talk show on the car radio.


"I just turned on the radio by happenstance and there it was," she said. "I was a little teary-eyed coming down the road because I wasn't sure how to feel."

More than 25 months after the attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, Whicher said she's still having a hard time sorting through her emotions. Even though she has thought a lot about the trial, she said she did not know how she would feel when a verdict was announced.

Watching news coverage after the jury reached a guilty verdict on all 11 counts, Whicher said she had wondered how McVeigh could have done such a thing. She said she has slowly come to the conclusion that he does not think like most people.

"I've never wished him dead," she said. "I just don't have that kind of hate."

Whicher said she is content to let the jury decide whether to impose the death penalty. The same jury that took 23 1/2 hours over four days to convict McVeigh will return Wednesday to hear evidence and determine whether he should die by injection.

Still to come is the trial of co-defendant Terry Nichols. Whicher said she intends to follow that trial closely, perhaps even more closely than she did McVeigh's trial.

On Monday, however, after two years of anguish, months of shuttling back and forth to Oklahoma City and weeks of sorting through testimony from the trial, Whicher said her chief emotion was relief.

The guilty verdict marks the end of a wrenching four years for Whicher, who said she was just getting over her husband's death two years earlier when the bomb went off. Her 40-year-old son's job as a Secret Service agent had taken him to Oklahoma about seven months earlier, she said.

Although the pain has eased, Whicher said it is by no means gone. As file pictures of the smoldering building flickered across the television screen on Monday, she choked back tears.

"That's awful," she said. "I wonder how I could have ever thought anyone could have lived through that."

Acceptance has come in stages for Whicher. She was selling items at a garage sale in preparation for moving to Oklahoma when her daughter called to tell her about the explosion. When she arrived at her daughter's house to watch the story unfold on television, she said she clung to the belief that her son was not in the building at the time or was away from the blast area.

Two days later, she received official word of her son's death. Whicher said the full impact did not hit her until weeks later.

"When you don't have an open-casket funeral, don't have a body to look at, you sometimes wonder if someone is trying to fool you," she said.

Whicher said she intends to look up her son's pictures on record at the corner's office.

"I need to do that," she said.

Whicher's life was turned upside down by the blast. She postponed her plans to move to Oklahoma. Her daughter-in-law and three grandchildren returned to the Rockville, Md., area, where they had lived before moving to Oklahoma.

Whicher has since placed her home on Barnes Road up for sale and has decided to follow through with her move. She said she felt an immediate bond to the area, and the bombing has strengthened it.

"It doesn't bother me that it is close to where it happened," she said. "It's kind of comforting in a way."

Whicher will live in Edmond, Okla., not far from where her son lived. A pond in the development was named after him.

Whicher said she must decide what to do with the rest of her life. She left college early to raise a family, and said she would like to go back and set an example for her 13 grandchildren.

Whicher said she wants to learn more about the militia movement that apparently inspired the attack and get involved in the victims' rights movement.

"I don't know where I fit into all this, but I have to do something," she said. "I feel like I'm 18."

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