Get A Grip: McVeigh may be gone, but nation is a long way from forgetting tragedy

The reaction of a co-worker surprised me.

"Well," he said Monday after Timothy McVeigh's death was official, "at least the nightmare is over now."

What an odd sentiment, I thought.

Sure we've killed Timothy McVeigh but is the nightmare really over? For those who survived and those whose loved ones died, the nightmare will probably never be over.

It is hard for me to imagine that killing McVeigh could lessen the loss of any one of those 168 people by even the slightest margin.

McVeigh is dead.

He died, as we have read and heard, over and over again, with his eyes open.

He seemed to look death in the face with the same lack of emotion he held for his victims.

He had no final words for the nation that watched breathlessly over his demise but he shared a copy of a poem (Invictus by William Ernest Henley) that suggests he held to his belief that his actions were just and that his death would be a martyring.

On Monday the television crews combed Kingman seeking comments on the fate of its infamous former resident.

Most of the interviewees I saw said the same thing: McVeigh's association with Kingman has tainted us all.

They said that Kingman isn't a gathering point for paranoid gun-toting government haters and that Kingman wishes the world would just leave us alone and forget about Timothy McVeigh.

We can wish all we want but it's not likely that the world will leave us alone.

Kingman is now forever associated with the most brutal act of senseless terrorism ever committed in the United States.

It was here that McVeigh said he made his careful plans against the Alfred P.

Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City.

From here, as Miner reporter Jim Seckler wrote so eloquently in Sunday's paper, McVeigh headed "east into infamy." It was here that he told his friends, Kingman residents Michael and Lori Fortier, of his plans.

It was here that they chose not to warn anyone of the impending disaster.

McVeigh has told reporters that he targeted the Murrah building because it housed federal government workers.

It also housed a day care center full of children but that didn't matter to McVeigh.

The children died along with the government workers.

They died with the clerks and secretaries and janitors.

His cowardly attack failed to inflict any real harm on his true target: the federal government itself.

Instead, he killed babies, moms and dads, brothers and sisters.

People like you and me.

So now he's dead.

But the taint he left here lives on.

Soon-to-be-resident and well-known white supremacist Denis Mahon is coming here in part because McVeigh recommended it.

Mahon was kicked out of Canada and denied entry into Germany for his violent views.

I hope Kingman reacts in a like manner.

But Mahon or no Mahon, we've got a lot of healing to do.

McVeigh's death was a closure only for him.

Execution was the fate he actively sought and we gave it to him (along with two pints of mint chocolate chip ice cream).

His lawyer said execution was "the more attractive option" to McVeigh.

He got what he wanted compliments of a bureaucracy of brutality unmatched in the developed world.

We have set a standard for humanity that we, as a nation, are unwilling to meet.

McVeigh is dead and with him go his secrets.

Doubtless conspiracy theories will be spurred by the execution and in the end, that will be McVeigh's legacy to many.

Meanwhile, in Oklahoma City, the chairs of 168 people sit forever empty, a silent testament to the fact that the nightmare will never be over.

The pain may fade, the spotlight may shift, but the world is forever changed.