Video: Univ. of Oklahoma suicide bomber

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updated 2/23/2010 2:49:00 PM ET 2010-02-23T19:49:00

A suicide bombing at the University of Oklahoma has the campus and the community on edge.  Twenty-one-year-old student Joel Hinrichs blew himself up outside a packed football stadium on Oct. 1. While no one else was hurt in the blast and police have now ruled out terrorism as a motive, everyone involved is still searching for answers.

Hinrichs' father, Joel Hinrichs, Jr., joined MSNBC's Rita Cosby on Friday's 'Live and Direct' to discuss the situation, along with Houda Elyazgi, a member of the University of Oklahoma Muslim Student Association. 

To read an excerpt of their conversation, continue to the text below. To watch the video, click on the "Launch" button to the right.

RITA COSBY: Mr. Hinrichs, first of all, our apologies.  I'm sure it is just heartbreaking for you.  Why do you think your son killed himself? 

JOEL HINRICHS, JR., SON COMMITTED SUICIDE WITH BOMB:  He ran out of optimism.  That's one way to put it.  He decided that the life he was looking at had nothing.  He had run out of solutions and was too proud to try anybody else's.

Since that left him in a dead-end situation, he's looking at life through the end of a telescope.  All he can see is his death 60 years out.  And this is me extrapolating.  He said, "Why wait?" 

COSBY:  You know, your son tried to buy fertilizer.  And an off-duty police officer saw that in a store.  ... Do you think ... had the store owner ... had everyone sort of followed through, do you think your son would still be alive? 

HINRICHS:  No.  No. 

COSBY:  You don't.  You think he was still determined. 
Why do you think he chose a bomb?  You know, it's such a bizarre way to take your life.  You know, taking it whatever way is unfortunate, but it's sort of a strange mechanism to do so. 

HINRICHS:  Not to me.  He was a high-tech kind of guy.  He had been interested since a very young age in anything that went bang.  Most little boys are.  He ... he went out with a bang.  What can I say? 

COSBY:  Are you worried about copycats?  ...  Are you worried about someone else unfortunately doing something similar? 

HINRICHS:  I'm worried about the parents of anybody who might want to be a copycat.  I'm here because of hindsight.  Hindsight makes geniuses of us all.  I have learned things about my son that I didn't know.  Perhaps I should have. 

The changes that take place are so gradual.  You don't see them coming.  But if I were to have stopped at some point, a year ago, and said, "My son is 20.  What was he at 15?  What was he at 10?  What are the changes that have taken place that are so gradual?" 

I didn't see them coming.  And if they're good ones, I should celebrate the good ones.  It'll probably shock my child if I celebrated something good, but do that. 

And if the changes are not good ones, then what do I do?  There's no magic eraser.  I can't undo what has happened, but there are steps.  I don't know what they are.  They're counterintuitive.  They're beyond my capability. 

But if I research those steps, and find them, and put them in play, then I am a genius before the fact. 

COSBY:  And, Mr. Hinrichs, I would just tell you our prayers are with you.  It's just got to be heartbreaking, the loss of a child, especially something like this.  And I do thank you very much for being with us, sir. 

The bombing has had some other rippling effects.  It's had some Muslim students on the campus worried about their own safety.

Ms. Elyazgi, why are students so worried?  I know there was this pointing of maybe a Muslim tie, because it was someone who blew themselves up.  It's in Oklahoma, where the Oklahoma City bombing took place.  It's also Norman, Oklahoma, where Zacarias Moussaoui, you know, supposedly, at one point, the 20th hijacker, we know that he went to flight school there. 

Do you understand why sort of everybody was just so nervous at first? 

HOUDA ELYAZGI, O.U. MUSLIM STUDENT ASSOCIATION:  I think we're all nervous because we're just all so confused.  The media has put out an image.  And unfortunately, they have not been portraying this story as it should be portrayed. 

Everyone's really confused.  There are a lot of unanswered questions.  We don't understand the situation in full.  And everyone is speculating, because the media is basing their reports on speculations.

And so it's contributing to this pool of ignorance that exists on campus.  I think we're just all confused.  And we're all concerned for our safety, as O.U. students, not necessarily as Muslims in general. 

COSBY:  How would you say that school officials have responded?  Are you happy that they've at least tried to do what they can? 

ELYAZGI:  President Boren is doing a wonderful job of promoting tolerance and understanding on campus.  And O.U. is a very friendly campus.  So I think that they're doing a wonderful job. 

COSBY:  Do you understand -- because Joel Hinrichs had a Muslim roommate, they questioned him and some of the others -- were you angry that there was sort of this rush to judgment, bomber, Muslim, that things sort of unfortunately got out of hand? 

ELYAZGI:  I was angry that the media rushed to judge, because it was not the O.U. community that rushed to judge.  I don't feel that anyone, you know, made rash decisions or judgments.  It was what the media said then.  And they based their judgments on that.  And it's very unfortunate. 

Watch 'Rita Cosby Live & Direct' each night at 9 p.m. ET on MSNBC.

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