From American RadioWorks®, the documentary project of Minnesota Public Radio and NPR NewsSM.

June 2002

Kay Fulton's Diary

Produced by Sasha Aslanian and Stephen Smith

On the Internet at:

On June 11, 2001, Timothy McVeigh was executed for his role in the Oklahoma City bombing. One hundred sixty-eight people died that day in 1995. It was the largest act of terrorism on American soil, until September 11. They were preceeded by the bombing of Pan Am 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in which 189 Americans were killed.

The terrorist attacks have created a community of survivors' families. They are united by grief, anguish and desire for justice. They are joined by the shock that terrorism has fractured their lives.

Kay Fulton lost her brother Paul, a federal customs agent, in the Oklahoma City bombing. For the last 7 years, she has been an activist, testifying before Congress on anti-terrorism legislation. She also volunteered to witness McVeigh's death by lethal injection. She began this audio diary in the weeks leading up to the execution

I Want You to Know Who Paul Was

   "It's 9:45 p.m. Monday night, January 13, 1992. We're surveillance…"(fades out)

This is a recorder I found shortly after the bombing, Paul was making a tape during a surveillance he was on.

   "OK, we're driving by Shivvers' house one more time. The Mercedes I believe is boy-papa-papa 5-3-Romeo."

It's not a real good quality tape, but it's the only recording I have of his voice.

   (Paul on recording) "There's also a pickup that a man had the door open…" (fades out)

He was just 42 years old and very accomplished. He had just retired a few months before from the Marine Corps reserves as a Lieutenant Colonel. He was a Senior Special Agent with U.S. Customs, he was a marathon runner, he was a pilot with his own plane. He loved his country and his entire adult life was spent in the service of his country. So, I didn't just lose a brother but you lost someone also.

The bombing, that moment when I saw it happen, felt it happen, it's not weighing on my mind every day like Paul's memory is. You know this is always, always with you. I mean, every day I miss Paul and I think about him every day.

A Seat at the Execution

    (TV news anchor) "Good evening. A week from tomorrow one of this country's most hated criminals will be put to death."

   (Second news anchor) "A Red Wing woman will be among the few selected to watch the historic and controversial event."

I got the call. I think it was on Wednesday the 18th — I won a seat to view the execution and I was so thrilled.

   (TV Reporter)"For 6 years she has worked to keep McVeigh out of her thoughts."

I haven't, in the last 6 years, spent a lot of time being angry with McVeigh, because that would make me have to stop and think about him and it would have to acknowledge his existence for me.

   (Reporter) "in this chamber at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana."

I personally always thought life imprisonment would be the consummate penalty for some horrific crime. Lethal injection is really so humane—I mean you just go to sleep. And it's just so fast! But now I've changed my mind about the death penalty. And I want, and I need to know that Tim McVeigh is going to face those few moments of extreme and utter fear and terror. That's something that in a lifetime of imprisonment they're never subjected to. If he—for just that split second—McVeigh just turns inside out with fear, then, maybe, this is the right thing.

The Federal Penitentiary in Terre Haute

I am somewhere in between Chicago and Indianapolis. It's late, it's dark and everybody on the train is asleep so I am trying to be really quiet.

Choosing the train has been the right choice for me, because I really have had the chance to just calm down. And I think tomorrow, when I get up, then I can face just what it is I am getting ready to walk into. But now it's just kinda nice, just this quiet sound of the train, and then there is a guy snoring next to me!

   (Reporter) "We met up with Kay Fulton on the banks of Terre Haute's Wabash River, a safe two miles from the media onslaught at the federal prison where tomorrow morning she will witness the execution…"

It's Sunday, about 10 o'clock and I am with Boyd Huppert with Channel 11, KARE, and we are getting ready to do an interview. Here we go.

Is it OK if I keep my sunglasses on? Cause I'll be squinting really badly and I'll get a headache and the rest of the day will be really bad.

   (Huppert in the TV news broadcast) "A few hours after we talked, Kay reported to the prison. She and the other witnesses were briefed on what to expect, then taken to a secret location to spend the night."

    (TV anchor) "Death penalty advocates and opponents are demonstrating here on the grounds."

    (Reporter) "…and at precisely 4:12, began a 168 minute silent candlelight vigil."

   (Prison Warden) "Timothy James McVeigh has been executed by lethal injection. He was pronounced dead at 7:14 a.m.Central Daylight Time. McVeigh's body will be released to a representative of his family."

Hi, it is Monday, 8 a.m. It's just an hour after the execution, and it is over with. I am just on my way over to the media area to do some interviews. But you know, actually, I feel really good, there's been a great cloud lifted. I'm just so relieved, there's been such a weight lifted. Talk to you later, bye.

Watching McVeigh Die

Hi it's still Tuesday. I am in the car. I am driving from Terre Haute back to Indianapolis to get home, but I wanted—as early as I could—to tell you about the actual execution and then try to talk to you about emotionally what's been going on.

When I saw him, I was really taken aback. You know, for 6 years, the pictures I have seen of him—he's a cocky arrogant —I'm sorry, he WAS — a cocky, arrogant, you know, strong-looking tanned, proud, defiant. When they opened that curtain and I saw him, it didn't even look like the same person. He was gaunt, but it was his color—he was just pasty looking, his head was almost shaved.

He turned his head to his right and looked at our window for a few seconds and then he laid his head back down.

Then they announced that the first drug had been introduced. And it was a while. I almost had the feeling he was trying to fight it or maybe it just takes that long to take effect. It seemed like a long time to me. I did see after the 2nd drug was introduced — the one that slows the breathing —I saw the little puff of air come out of his mouth and I like to think I watched him take his last breath.

During the execution, I took my picture of Paul and since I was in front, I was able to put Paul's picture right up against the glass. And although McVeigh could not see the picture, symbolically it was a way for me to let my brother watch his murderer die, and I don't know if that's anything Paul would have wanted, and… I don't know. I don't know. I hope I did the right thing for him.

It's Sunday the 17th, six days after the execution and I'm back home, and I haven't done anything because I was just so physically exhausted when I got back. I have no regrets about being there.

But it would feel really hurt to think people condemn me, because this was something I needed to do.

Reliving the Oklahoma City Blast

   (Newscast from September 11) "Suddenly we heard a big bang and then we saw smoke coming out, the heigh of the Pentagon is gone…the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible…"

On September 11, I was getting ready to go to work. The minute I turned the television on, there was some reliving Oklahoma City. People running down the street in crisis and after watching coverage all day on September 11, I knew I had to go to New York.

I did make a call to find out if anything was in the works, to get some of the other Oklahoma City families to New York. And six weeks later I was in New York.

A Sad Bond

We're having dinner at John's Pizza in Manhattan. I met Anthony Gardener who lost his brother Harvey in the World Trade Center. Anthony has organized this family exchange between Oklahoma City families and New York families.

One of the topics that came up during the dinner was the compensation fund that some of the New York families are being offered and Anthony certainly had a few words to say about that.


(Anthony) "The wrong information was out there. The press kept saying that every family was going to get $1.65 million. We were getting hate mail. I had a woman who told me to go f-myself, that my brother would be ashamed of me.

(New York woman) "And these again, these are people who, they're not families themselves."

(2nd NY woman) "They're just outside people."

(Oklahoma City man) "The day that it happened, September 11-it affected every one of us from Oklahoma City the same way it did you guys."

(Anthony) "It brought everything back."

(OKC man) "It brought every dang thing back."

(NY woman) "Absolutely!"

(OKC man) "And it never goes away. That's what we're trying to teach you guys. It don't go away. It's better, but you learn to live with it."

This is my last night in New York. It's Thursday night and I guess it's probably about 7:30 p.m. Being here, you know, there was such a nice bond—a sad bond, but there was no need to say anything. These people just immediately came right to you, hugged us and just started talking about their loss and the people who were gone out of their lives because of what happened. Just to have someone there who has been in a similar position is, somehow comforting. It was for me when Victoria Cummock was there for us, and Victoria lost her husband on Pan Am 103. And some of those people they would just come up and touch us and say thank you so much for being here and they were as sorry for our loss as we were for theirs.

Another Anniversary

It's April 19th, the 7th anniversary of the bombing.

   (Outgoing message on Kay's answering machine) Thank you for calling on this anniversary of my brother's murder. Please know how much your thoughts and support have meant to me and my parents. Your kind message will be most valued.

    (Television reporter) "Several families from New York traveled here to Oklahoma. Many of them say they share a special bond with Oklahoma City families even though most of them have never set foot in our state before tonight."

(Kay in Oklahoma) Do you know where all the New York families are? I'm one of the people who's gone to New York a couple of times. The group, do you know if the rest of the group got in last night? Anthony Gardener and the other group?

(NY man) "Yeah, I saw Anthony. He's here."

(Kay) Okay.

(NY woman) "Did Priscilla find you?"

(Kay) Hi guys! I'm so glad you two made it. Hi Lorraine. This is just so nice of you guys.

(Woman speaker) "For us in Oklahoma City, it has been 7 years. For others it has just been 7 months since the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, the downed flight in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

(Male speaker) "On September 11, all of us came to realize that the attack that took place here was the first, but unfortunately not the last of what will be a long war against terrorism."

If McVeigh Had Seen 9/11

Today is Saturday, April 20, the day after the anniversary—7th anniversary—and all the New York people have gone home. I just kind of wanted to come down to the memorial again after the big crowds were gone. It's a very cloudy, misty day and its quiet and tranquil. There's a few visitors here, but looking out on the reflecting pool, it's nice, it's still. It seems somehow appropriate for the day after the anniversary.

I thought during the day, at some point during the day it hit me, Tim McVeigh portrayed himself as a patriot. If September 11 had happened before April 19, 1995, if he had witnessed what had happened to our country, I wonder if he might have used his anger or restlessness or whatever you would call it, to maybe go fight the terrorists instead of focusing on his own fellow citizens.

This has just been an unbelievable journey. These 7 years it's been amazing how much has happened. The people I have met! The anniversaries, witnessing the execution and getting past that. And then September 11 happening. It was so awful—what happened to us on April 19 —but it's a different life for me now.