Bud Welch lost his 23-year old daughter, Julie, in the blast that destroyed the Murrah Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people in all. In a story entitled, “Where Healing Begins” (Guideposts Magazine, May 1999), he recounts the extraordinary personal journey to forgiveness that began for him on April 19, 1995. “From the moment I learned it was a bomb,” Bud writes, “I survived on hate.” His anger was focused on Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, and like so many others, Bud wished for their speedy conviction and execution. When he saw McVeigh’s father on television a few months after the bombing, however, Bud’s emotions began to shift for the first time. “Oh, dear God,” he remembers thinking to himself, “this man has lost a child, too.”

A second turning point in Bud’s journey came when he revisited the site of his daughter’s death in January 1996. Bud spotted an elm tree near the place where Julie had always parked her car. Despite damage from the blast, the tree had survived and even sprouted new branches. “The thought that came to me then seemed to have nothing to do with new life,” he writes. “It was the sudden, certain knowledge that McVeigh’s execution would not end my pain.” Bud’s advocacy of the death penalty for McVeigh ended soon after, and not without drawing notice. He began receiving invitations to speak about his evolving feelings, and one invitation arrived from Buffalo, ­ the home of McVeigh’s father. Bud knew it was time to meet.

On September 5, 1998, Bud Welch found himself in the home of Bill McVeigh, a “blue collar Joe” just like him. He also met Bill’s daughter, Jennifer, who reminded Bud of Julie’s friends. “We can’t change the past,” Bud told Bill and Jennifer, “but we have a choice about the future.” After this visit, Bud launched a campaign to save the elm tree outside the Murrah Building from a bulldozer, and the tree now stands as part of a memorial to the victims of April 19. It also stands as a memorial to Bud Welch’s remarkable journey from hate to forgiveness

Source: Reported in Guideposts Magazine, May 1999

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