I showed up in Terre Haute the day before.
Belly swelling with our firstborn, I walked a mile to the prison grounds, and it was like walking down Midway at the State Fair. People were outside the prison grounds selling 25-cent lemonade and shish kabobs. Others hawked T-shirts. Protesters were picnicking at the roadside. News reporters were “carrying it live,” sharing death with a worldwide audience.
This was how America participated in the dizzying deathwatch of a terrorist. And I had just become a part of this macabre spectacle; me, this round-bellied mama-to-be with a spiral-bound notebook in my hand.
An editor assigned me to travel to the prison because of an Iowa connection to the story. A native Iowan had died in the bombing, and his brother was assigned as one of the 10 victim witnesses to watch McVeigh die.
There were 10 other seats available for news media, and I was instructed by my editor to sign up for a “chance” to see the killing of a killer.
A reporter’s “dream” became one woman’s nightmare. I knew by the time I was halfway across Illinois that I couldn’t watch someone be killed — no matter how “humane” the process, no matter how much pain McVeigh had inflicted on others, no matter how many times I’d seen the aftermath of death before.
I Just. Couldn’t. Do it.
I felt physically sick, so prone to queasiness anyway as new baby-life grew in me. How could I watch as they injected a lethal cocktail into human veins?
Sodium pentothal, to render him unconscious.
Pancuronium bromide, to collapse his lungs.
Potassium chloride, to stop his heart from beating.