After the Oklahoma City Bombing, Clinton's ability to reach Americans on a personal level did much to help the nation's grief. "It’s kind of a throwaway line now, I feel your pain, but he literally could," says Robert McNeely. "I mean he could take people and just hug them and connect to them in a way and really listen to them."
Sidney Blumenthal, Adviser: The next day, on April 19th, the bomb went off at Oklahoma City. It was the largest domestic terrorist event in American history. That changed everything.
Bill Clinton (archival): The bombing in Oklahoma City was an attack on innocent children and defenseless citizens. It was an act of cowardice and it was evil. The United States will not tolerate it, and I will not allow the people of this country to be intimidated by evil cowards.
Narrator: Within 48 hours of the incident, the FBI arrested 26-year-old Timothy McVeigh, a former soldier with a burning hatred for the government. His massive truck bomb, detonated outside the Murrah Federal Building, killed 149 workers, along with 19 children.
Four days after the bombing, Clinton traveled to Oklahoma City to console the mourners.
Don Baer, Speechwriter: I went with him down to Oklahoma City for that Sunday morning on the flight, we worked on the speech some more. He was very focused on what to say. I remember we went into what I think they call the Cow Palace, and I’ve never been in a setting that was as eerily silent as that one was except for the sound of sobbing.
Robert McNeely: He, you know, stood there for hours and met with every single person and talked to everybody. I mean, there's that -- it’s kind of a throwaway line now, I feel your pain, but he literally could. I mean he could take people and just hug them and connect to them in a way and really listen to them.
Bill Clinton (archival): You have lost too much, but you have not lost everything. And you have certainly not lost America, for we will stand with you.
Peter Baker, Journalist: He really found a way to embrace the country to help them channel their grief, their confusion. It gets him out of the mode of reacting to Congress and into the mode of being a national leader, the person that the country can look to for assurance and, and reliance and strength.
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