Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mount Carmel, after the fire: Part 1

None of this will be earth-shaking. It’s just a memory. Maybe it's a travelogue.

I’m from Texas, but I lived elsewhere during the Ranch Apocalypse/Mount Carmel/Waco Siege/Standoff/Conflict. Something about the press coverage was way off. I could nearly tell what it was.

I began to collect Newsweek and Time magazine issues at the local resale store, and the “true crime” special editions from bent magazine publishers. I even purchased, Lord help me, the National Enquirer. I thought the problem would surely be blatant enough to recognize there. Instead, it was completely obscured by other problems.

The stand-off started on February 28, 1993 and ended on April 19, 1993. These events are still poorly reported in almost all quarters, and there’s a lot of cynicism directed at even official reports. Therefore, the contention still rages. The contention is not about security questions, but civil liberties questions.

In 1993, a man named Timothy McVeigh went to protest the interference of law enforcement with the Branch Davidians at Mount Carmel. Two years later, also on April 19, he blew up the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City with a pickup truck full of homemade explosives, an event which overshadowed the events of Mt. Carmel but also invoked it.

In 2001, we had the attacks of September 11, events which have put the Murrah Building conflagration somehow out of the public’s threat focus.

But in 1993, with hearings and second-guessing and recriminations, it was still a living news item.

When my semester ended mid-December, I packed my battered Toyota truck for my annual five day visit with my Grandmother in Dallas. That year, I determined that I would find Ranch Apocalypse on my way. I had nothing to offer during the conflagration or after. I just wanted to know why I thought the incident was poorly reported. Eight months after the Mount Carmel compound burned down, I thought maybe enough smoke had cleared.

My question was small next to the tragedy itself, but I thought it would help me evaluate tragedy, journalism, and the specific itself more clearly. So I packed my inelegant dossier with my elegant party clothes and hit the road.

4 comments:

Capt. Schmoe said...

This is going to be an interesting read. When I was with the arson unit, we worked closely with the local ATF field office. At that time, ATF was under the Treasury Dept. and Mt Carmel was fresh on their mind.

I often worked with one particular agent and spent more than a few hours with him parked in a car, bored watching some car or house.

One of the subjects that we discussed was this event. I found his position to be apologetic, although I wonder if he was just placating me as he knew I was a strong second amendment supporter.

With your permission, I will share some of the thoughts he presented to me as your posts develop.

Thanks Ann T.

Ann T. said...

Dear Captain Schmoe,
Can't wait.

Ann T.

Slamdunk said...

The inquisitive Ann T. on the road; I am interested in the rest of the story as well.

Ann T. said...

Dear Slamdunk,
I have a feeling that your comments and Captain Schmoe's are going to carry the true interest. But I have a number of posts planned, slow-moving, plenty of time to get everybody's interests in. I feel lucky to have some first responders to discuss this with.

Thanks for all the interest!

Ann T.