OKLAHOMA CITY – Hundreds of tourists milled about the Oklahoma City National Memorial on Thursday as the countdown continued for the planned execution of Timothy McVeigh.
Nearby streets were closed and television satellite trucks arrived, power generators humming to life. A group of middle school students sang religious songs beneath an elm tree that was damaged in the April 19, 1995, explosion. The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building by McVeigh killed 168 people and injured more than 500.
For the second time, the city is preparing for McVeigh's execution. He was first scheduled to die May 16, but the execution was delayed by Attorney General John Ashcroft.
McVeigh, 33, is now scheduled to die by injection Monday in Terre Haute, Ind. He abandoned all appeals Thursday, shortly after learning that a three-judge panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver ruled that his lawyers "utterly failed to demonstrate substantial grounds" why he should not be put to death next week.
McVeigh could have petitioned the full appeals court or taken his case directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Several Navy sailors walked the memorial grounds in their dress white uniforms, worn to show respect for those who died.
"We need to carry out his punishment quickly and bring an end for the families," said seaman Tem Frierson.
D.E. Jennings, a retired Korean War veteran, sat on a low wall at the memorial, twisting with his red, white and blue suspenders and shaking his head. He was troubled by the FBI's disclosure that it hadn't turned over all investigative documents in the case until recently.
"It's not over with," Jennings said. "He's guilty. He deserves punishment but people deserve to know the facts and the government has concealed them, so that's not right."
Doris Brooks of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., stopped at the memorial during a cross-country motor home trip. She said she had mixed feelings about whether McVeigh should be executed or simply locked away from society.
"I guess that might change if one of those people were mine," she said gesturing to memorial chairs, one for each bombing victim.
Elsewhere in the city, people were less concerned with McVeigh than with day-to-day life.
A mile south of the memorial, passenger boats sat docked in a canal in Bricktown, Oklahoma City's entertainment district, where city worker Tom McBride planted a small shrub.
"I think it is best for everyone to just get on with their lives," McBride said. "People have gotten sick of all the media here. It's a headline every day."