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The Last Supper: Timothy McVeigh

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On April 19, 1995, US military veteran Timothy McVeigh drove a truck containing some 5000 pounds of ammonium nitrate and nitromethane to the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City. The explosion tore open the north face of the building, resulting in the deaths of 168 people, including 19 children in day care, and injuring hundreds more. This was the worst act of domestic terrorism in US history, and it would remain the deadliest terrorist attack of any kind on US soil until September 11, 2001.

McVeigh’s stated motivations for the attack were a muddled combination of legitimate political grievances with conspiracy theories, white supremacist ideology, anti-government sentiment, and paranoia about gun control. He drew considerable inspiration from The Turner Diaries, a 1978 novel about race war and violent revolution that has been labeled as the “bible of the racist right“ by the SPLC. In the mid 90s this all seemed like the ranting of a madman; in 2019 swaths of McVeigh’s writing seem indistinguishable from mainstream political discourse.

Up until his execution by lethal injection on June 11, 2001, McVeigh maintained a posture of unrepentant defiance. Regarding the murder of children he said: “…I'm sorry but it happens every day. You're not the first mother to lose a kid...“ He chose the poem Invictus as his final statement. One frequently quoted couplet reads: “under the bludgeonings of chance my head is bloody, but unbowed”.

McVeigh requested mint chocolate chip ice cream for his final meal.

There is something deeply humanizing in the contemplation of the choices killers make for their final meals. The most common requests are comfort foods — unhealthy meals that suggest childhood indulgences and are reminders of the socioeconomic status of the kinds of people who are most frequently executed by the state. McVeigh’s ice cream dinner sounds like something a child would want for his birthday meal; the request stands in stark contrast to the warrior image he worked so hard to cultivate. In this composition McVeigh’s ice cream sits, untouched, melting slowly, staining the black cloth that drapes the table.