As members of Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation, a national organization of people who have lost a family member to homicide and oppose the death penalty, our hearts know that pain for which there are no words. With the surviving family members of those killed in the Oklahoma City bombing, we share lives that involve a continual healing process. Empty chairs at holidays, disbelief and anger at unexpected times, and moments of quiet tears are part of our reality as victims.
And as victims, we oppose the death penalty. While we come to this position from many different paths, we all know that killing murderers does not bring back their victims. We believe that cold calculated killing by our government, replicating the very act of violence that brought us to pain, dishonors the lives and memories of our beloved. The ritual of executions damages all of us in society and creates another grieving family. With the focus on putting someone to death, capital punishment makes anti-heroes out of murderers, while the lives of victims are forgotten and the needs of survivors are often ignored. Everyone knows the name of the bomber; few know the names of the 168 who died.
Last spring, on the 5th anniversary of the bombing, a national memorial was dedicated in Oklahoma City. The dignity and serenity of the memorial honors the lives of the victims. It is for the lives of our own loved ones that we reject executions as some kind of tribute to victims.
As it often does, the death penalty has divided the surviving families. Those who oppose the death penalty have their pain pitted against the pain of other, pro-death-penalty survivors for the entertainment of a viewing audience. And Oklahoma City bombing victims' family members who oppose the execution of McVeigh are isolated and shunned by some, and abandoned by our top officials.
As Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation continues to provide quiet support for our members and for other Oklahoma City bombing victims' families who oppose the death penalty, we remain committed to ending capital punishment and to focusing on supporting programs that prevent crime and promote healing for victims. Seeking the death penalty has cost millions of taxpayer dollars; we wish that money could have gone to victims counseling, scholarships for kids who have lost parents to murder, compensation funds to aid victims, anti-hate-crime education programs in schools, and to the upkeep of the memorial in Oklahoma City so that we will always remember the names of those who were killed and not the name of the killer. In the name of our own loved ones who have been victimized by homicide, we renew our call for the federal government to end the cycle of violence: halt the execution of Timothy McVeigh and others facing a federal death sentence, and give full support and resources to helping the families of victims of homicide.
April 24, 2001
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