Witness Account: McVeigh Died Silently
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. – Minutes before he took his final breath Monday, Timothy McVeigh raised his head, strained his neck slightly and tried to acknowledge everyone who would watch him die.
It was a quick, methodical and intense look, as though he had to count each person, had to make sure they looked into his eyes. They were the same eyes that have been burned into the American consciousness, the eyes of a man who killed 168 people with one act of rage.
After panning the room, pausing to squint toward the tinted window shielding the 10 survivors and victims' representatives, McVeigh rested his head and stared straight up, seeming to concentrate on the closed-circuit video camera beaming the execution to about 300 witnesses gathered 620 miles away in Oklahoma City.
McVeigh was strapped to a gurney, covered to his neck by a light gray sheet. He was dressed in a white shirt and khaki pants.
Warden Harley Lappin, standing with his arms crossed, almost at attention, asked McVeigh if he had any final words. There was a one-minute pause. McVeigh's head remained fixed, his eyes still staring into the camera, rarely blinking.
Breaking the silence, the warden began reciting the charges — using a weapon of mass destruction, conspiracy, eight counts of murder. Again, no change in McVeigh's expression, just a focused stare.
"Marshal, we are ready, may we proceed?" the warden asked U.S. Marshal Frank Anderson, the only other person in the death chamber.
Anderson picked up a bright red phone off a metal tray attached to the wall. Someone on the other end spoke, Anderson hung up the phone and said simply, "Warden, we may proceed with the execution."
Then, again, silence.
McVeigh swallowed hard. His eyes moved slightly from side to side. His chest moved up and down and his lips twice puffed air out, as if he was trying to maintain consciousness.
A guard in the witness room announced the first drug had been administered. Ten minutes had passed; it was 8:10 a.m. EDT.
McVeigh's eyes remained open, but they began to glass over, started rolling up just slightly. His pale skin began to turn slightly yellow.
At 8:11 a.m. EDT, the guard said the second drug had been administered. The warden looked straight ahead, glancing down at McVeigh just occasionally.
The convicted bomber's lips began to turn the slightest tinge of blue. He was still.
It was 7:14 a.m.
It was over.