|Andrew W. Griffin|
Jannie Coverdale lost two grandchildren in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.
By Andrew W. Griffin
Red Dirt Report, editor
Posted: May 6, 2011
OKLAHOMA CITY – For over 16 years, Oklahoma City resident Jannie Coverdale has been haunted by the deaths of her young grandchildren, Aaron, 5 and Elijah, 2.
In her home, pictures and portraits of the boys line the wall. Elijah’s favorite stuffed toy, a “Barney” the purple dinosaur sits in the middle of an adjacent couch. A reminder of the grandson she lost that day.
For Coverdale they are not forgotten and there is not a day that she says she does not think about them and wishes she had not taken them to the day care in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on the morning of April 19, 1995.
At the same time, on the opposite wall, is a drawing of Coverdale sitting next to Joyce Wilt, the mother of convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols. It was drawn by freelance courtroom sketch artist Pat Lopez.
When Wilt would appear in the courtroom, Coverdale said she did not want to talk to Wilt because of her connection to Nichols. But, she says, over time she would sit with Wilt despite the dirty looks and comments that came from other survivors and victims attending the court proceedings.
“I realized, ‘this woman did not do anything to me.’”
Even then, in the late 1990’s, after some time had gone by, Coverdale was learning to forgive. Still, she had a hole in her heart and many, many questions. Many of which remain unanswered to this day.
But having the courage to communicate with those directly involved in the bombing conspiracy – bombing conspirator Terry Nichols, for instance – has been rather amazing.
In fact, Coverdale has, over the years, started writing Nichols, who is currently housed in a federal prison in Colorado. She shows Red Dirt Report a recent letter she received from Nichols. The contents of the letter merely feature Nichols talking about God and Coverdale’s family, sentiments one would expect from a close friend.
She said she writes to Nichols about issues related to her life.
Ironically, notes Coverdale, she has written countless letters seeking more information about the bombing that killed Aaron and Elijah from people in the state and federal government. She says that for the most part they send her form letters or ignore her all together.
“I even sent President Obama a lot of stuff,” Coverdale said. “All I got back was a form letter. I’m not even sure if he saw what I sent him.”
Added Coverdale: “We’ve written to everyone we can think to write to and we’ve gotten no help.”
Continuing, she said: “We have a mess here at home. `Obama can go overseas and find Osama Bin Laden and no one is trying to find the other people responsible for the bombing here?”
Yes, Jannie Coverdale has come to the conclusion – after much research and talking to eyewitnesses – that convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh did not act alone.
Letters sent to U.S. senators, congressmen, people in the Department of Justice – both Attorney General Janet Reno and current Attorney General Eric Holder. Coverdale said neither has expressed any help or concern regarding her questions.
“I have a temper and when Janet Reno would come to town I made sure not to go because I was afraid of what I’d say to her,” Coverdale says disgustedly.
People like Coverdale, people actually closely connected to the tragedy of the Murrah bombing, are considered pests, she says, especially when folks like her start asking, well, “uncomfortable” questions about the bombing.
“I don’t think there’s anybody in Washington that likes me,” she says, noting that she is a native of the D.C. suburb of Alexandria, Virginia.
She recalls meeting then-President Bill Clinton, the man in the White House when the bombs exploded that spring morning.
While a handshake was offered, Coverdale told the president that where she comes from, people hug. And after she hugged President Clinton, Hillary Clinton, looking somewhat awkward, agreed to hug Coverdale as well.
“What could she do with all those people standing around?” Coverdale says with a sly smile.
It’s been a long, hard road for Coverdale. She lost some other people close to her soon after the bombing and said she would go in the bathroom and turn on the shower to mask the sound of her aching cries.
But Coverdale says she is not going to just “move on” or put it out of her mind. No, Coverdale has taken an interest in seeking the truth of what happened that day and who did what and where.
She has taken an interest in the books of death row inmate David Paul Hammer who got to know McVeigh prior to his execution on June 11, 2001 at a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.
Coverdale is pretty convinced that Hammer’s observations in his 2010 book Deadly Secrets are spot on.
Hammer says McVeigh gave him the full story of how he was actually an undercover federal agent who was part of a larger sting operation that, according to the website promoting the book, “went terribly wrong.”
Coverdale wants to meet with Hammer in person. However, following an unauthorized radio interview he did last year with talk-show host Alex Jones, getting a hold of Hammer has been far more difficult.
“I filled out three applications to go to Indiana to see David Paul Hammer. All of them were rejected, they say, for ‘security reasons,’” Coverdale said, adding jokingly, “Yep. I’m a real threat to security.”
Coverdale said she learned a lot about McVeigh through Hammer’s book. She believes he is telling the truth and that more people were involved in the bombing than we were officially told.
Coverdale who lived in the Regency Apartments building, right near the Murrah building, recalls talking to the operator of a convenience store and grill on the bottom floor, Danny Wilkerson, who, after the bombing, told Coverdale that McVeigh had been in the shop and had purchased two Cokes and a pack of Marlboro Reds cigarettes right before the bombing.
“Tim McVeigh did not smoke. And who was the other Coke for?” noted Coverdale. “Someone was with McVeigh. We know Terry Nichols was in Kansas. Who was with Tim McVeigh?”
Wilkerson said he saw someone else with McVeigh. But that information did not fit in the official story line. Wilkerson has since died.
“Something is wrong,” Coverdale said. “Where is that other person who was with Tim that Danny saw?”
Coverdale said that the night before the bombing she did not sleep. She does not remember much about the morning until she was at work and heard two bombs go off, one after the other. Of course the government stands by the single, truck bomb theory despite numerous people coming forward and describing hearing two bombs go off.
It would be days before Coverdale would learn that Aaron and Elijah were dead.
And when it finally came out that Timothy McVeigh was the government’s prime suspect – and word was that another man, John Doe #2, was out there – Coverdale said she did not understand how t hat could be.
“Americans blowing up Americans? That didn’t make sense to me,” she said. “I felt betrayed that they did that.”
But as she has come to learn more and more – eyewitness accounts, the tales out of the militia compound at Elohim City in rural Adair County, Okla., the strange connection to Michael Fortier and the Kingman, Ariz. area, and even a rumor that McVeigh allegedly slept with Nichols’ wife and killed his infant son, believing the child to be a “half-breed.”
But that was never proven. McVeigh is dead, it appears, and Coverdale is left with her memories.
She now wants the federal government to release all the videotapes from the security cameras that surrounded the Murrah building. Why won’t they release them? she wonders.
And regarding McVeigh? Well, Coverdale says: “I wonder if Tim was really executed?”
But then it comes back to the reality of the innocent people killed that day. One hundred and sixty-eight people. Her two grandchildren.
“I knew 15 of those children. I saw them twice a day,” she said. “I knew five adults there. Those folks were working there because they needed to feed their families. (My grandchildren) were there because we took them there.”
Coverdale has a look of sadness on her face as she remembers.
“There’s been no closure for me because I know we haven’t been told the truth,” she said.
Copyright 2011 West Marie Media