April 19th was the 21st anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing. The physical wounds of that day have healed and buildings have been rebuilt—but memories of the horrific bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City continue to affect the lives of those present and their friends and family.
The year was 1995. Domestic terrorists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols—angry at the federal government over perceived slights—sought to make a violent statement by destroying federal government property and taking the lives of government employees. On April 19th, a truck filled with explosives killed 168 men, women, and children and injured 680 others.
The AFGE family lost 51 of its own that day — 35 workers in the Department of Housing and Urban Development and 16 in the Social Security offices.
AFGE honors the memory of those men, women, and children who were taken from us. We mourn alongside the families who continue to grieve to this day, and renew our pledge to protect the health and safety needs of every federal government employee.
After the attack, AFGE members committed themselves to making sure the public servants affected had the support they needed. More than $400,000 was donated to an established relief fund for families. That spirit of compassion lives on to this day, as the permanent Fund for Emergency Disaster Support (FEDS) for natural and man-made disasters.
AFGE also advocated for legislation to increase security and protection around federal buildings. Now, every government building is staffed with trained security guards and safety personnel to keep employees and visitors safe.
In the decades since the bombing, few people remember the desperate effort to locate the perpetrators in the days after the blast. But one man remembers it very clearly: the public official who prosecuted McVeigh and Nichols, Merrick Garland.
At the time, Garland was principal associate deputy attorney general in the Justice Department. He was on the ground just two days after the attack and stayed for weeks, working with rescue teams and investigators, meeting with victims’ families, and laying the groundwork for the government’s successful prosecution of McVeigh and Nichols.
He remained mostly unknown to those not directly touched by the tragedy in Oklahoma City. But now, 20 years later, he is at the epicenter of national discussion. President Obama nominated Garland in March 2016 as a Supreme Court justice after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia.
Garland's intense attention to detail, knowledge of law, and steadfast approach to the investigation in Oklahoma City was just a preview of why he'd be an asset in the highest court in the land.
“The families of those who lost their lives in the Oklahoma City bombing owe a massive debt of gratitude to Merrick Garland," AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. said. "He brought justice to those who took so much from these families."