David Duprey  /  AP file
In a 2001 photo, Bill McVeigh, the father of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh, pictured on the television, watches from his living room as a news station reports that a federal judge refused to block his son's execution.
By NBC News Producer
msnbc.com
updated 4/19/2005 8:31:18 AM ET 2005-04-19T12:31:18

"I'm trying to treat it like any other day. I realize what it is but..." The words stopped there.

Bill McVeigh's voice trailed off into an awkward seven-second silence. That was his response in fetching up his thoughts on the approaching 10th anniversary of one of the worst acts of terrorism committed on American soil, the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal building in Oklahoma City. 

The last time I saw Bill McVeigh, was about 26 hours after his son, Timothy J. McVeigh was put by death by lethal injection at the Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana on the morning of June 11, 2001.

There was a fluorescent orange cardboard sign on Bill McVeigh's garage door with a hand-written message that said something like: "No Media Allowed".  My memory is fuzzy about the exact wording but in true Bill McVeigh fashion, the language wasn't much harsher than that. He was and remains too much of a decent, humble, and plainspoken sort of man to have written anything overtly rude. He has invited reporters into his home and given tours of his garden. I vividly recall chatting with him in his living room, with an NBA basketball game providing background distraction, while we ate pizza.

And in the days following his son's execution, McVeigh has maintained roughly the same routine he's followed since he retired in 1999 as a production worker from the local radiator plant in town. "It's been as normal as possible. It ain't normal. I try to do it, but it's always there. and it's always going to be there," he said.

That routine is unremarkable. "I'm in two leagues. I golf almost every day, play those nine holes. I've got the golf leagues and bowling."

Were he not the father of Timothy McVeigh, 65 year-old Bill McVeigh, would probably best be known for his meticulously groomed and lush 50-foot by 70-foot  backyard garden at his modest home in upstate Pendelton, New York. He proudly lists the contents of that garden: "strawberries. asparagus. peas. onions. corn. beans. cabbage." His nemesis? "Cauliflower, it's the only thing I can't grow."

By disposition, McVeigh is an amiable, friendly, and solidly alpha-male type who is spawned of a generation that would hardly speak openly of internal strife, let alone show up for a confessional on Oprah's yellow sofa.

Bud Welch, who lost his daughter, Julie Marie Welch, in the Oklahoma City bombing and became an outspoken anti-death penalty advocate, maintains a friendship by telephone with Bill. "If you go visit him, he'll sit and talk to you all afternoon, {but} he doesn't like to be exposed and he's content with working in his garden," he says. "He's not anti-social because he does enjoy going out with others and being involved in sporting activities and running the bingo games at church." Welch, a Catholic himself added: "Of course, if you're Catholic, you've got to have a bingo game."

Welch's friendship with Bill McVeigh is the subject of a movie titled "Bud & Bill" that is to be produced by Robert Greenwald later next year.

That friendship is something Welch deliberately works at: "I'm concerned with his welfare. I think somehow it's easier for me than it is for me than Bill and we've both buried children. When your parents die, you go to the hilltop and you bury them, when your children die,  you bury them in your heart, and it's forever."

Welch's concern is palpable: "Bill is worse than most people in keeping things within him, trying to express emotions, and I think he'd be better off if he'd let some emotions out."

Does Bill McVeigh have a message or a sentiment he wishes to express to the victims and survivors of the bombing? "Not that I can mention. I just don't. I just don't like to talk about that. I get very nervous. I'm very aware of it though."  He also has no intentions, as he's stated throughout, of visiting Oklahoma City.

Bill McVeigh is still a father who has lost his son. "Every day, I think of him almost every day. I don't keep track, you know what I mean, but I do think about him." 

Alice Rhee is an NBC News Producer.

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