The Unlikely Story of Forgiveness After the Oklahoma City Bombing


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The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing in Oklahoma City April 19, 1995, was the deadliest attack of domestic terrorism in US history, killing at least 168 people and injuring more than 680 others. The bomb blast destroyed or damaged 324 other buildings within a 16-block radius, shattered glass in 258 nearby buildings, and destroyed or burned 86 cars, causing an estimated $652 million worth of damage.

Releasing April 14, 2020—five days before the 25th anniversary of the bombing—will be the book Grace from the Rubble: Two Fathers’ Road to Reconciliation after the Oklahoma City Bombing (Zondervan, 2020). It’s the riveting true story of two fathers—one whose daughter was killed in the bombing, and the other the father of her killer, Timothy McVeigh—who appeared destined to be enemies, but who instead formed an unexpected bond in the wake of terrorism and tragedy.

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8

“With compassion for all who have been touched by tragedy, this poignant narrative will touch readers’ hearts with the astonishing forgiveness that led to an extraordinary friendship,” says Mick Silva, senior acquisitions editor, Zondervan. “Jeanne is deeply convicted by the biblical ethic of forgiveness and reconciliation, after experiencing healing of her deep resentment toward her sister’s killer. It was that experience that led her to reach out to Bud and learn of the story of his similar olive branch extended to Bill after finding mercy for Tim following Julie’s death. I’d say this story is an amazing expression of the forgiveness Jesus demonstrates toward us.”

Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

Jeanne Bishop, author of Grace from the Rubble

Written by Jeanne Bishop (@jeannebishop), whose own sister was murdered at age 25 along with her husband and their unborn child by a home invader, Grace from the Rubble tells the intertwining stories of four individuals:

  • Julie Welch, a young professional full of promise when she was killed
  • Bud Welch, the father whose only daughter (Julie) was murdered in the bombing
  • Timothy McVeigh, the troubled mind behind the horrific bombing and
  • Bill McVeigh, Timothy’s father.
[Read the Bible Gateway Blog post, Forgiving the Killer of the Charleston Church Shooting: An Interview with Rev. Anthony B. Thompson]

If you forgive others their sins, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you don’t forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your sins. Matthew 6:14-15

With searing details by first-hand witnesses (including the governor of Oklahoma), masterful storyteller Jeanne Bishop describes the suspenseful scenes leading to that fateful day and the dramatic events after, as one father buried his daughter and the other saw his only son arrested and tried for mass murder. Vivid and haunting, this true story is rich with memories and beautiful descriptions of the nation’s heartland, a place of grit and love for neighbors and family. Bishop shares how murder affected her own family and led her to meet Bud and, ultimately, how they learned to see humanity amidst inhuman violence.

Excerpt from Grace from the Rubble: Two Fathers’ Road to Reconciliation after the Oklahoma City Bombing (Zondervan, 2020). Used by permission.

Oklahoma City is where I heard Casady football coach and teacher Dick McCubbin quote from Scripture: “To whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48). He laid out the challenge to us: You have been given everything in the world you could need or want. Now what will you do for the world?

Oklahoma City is where I saw that when a neighbor is sick, you bring dinner. When a new family moves onto your block, you welcome them with a basket of cookies and juice boxes for their kids. When a friend goes to prison, you write him and visit him at Leavenworth, and you make sure to invite the wife he left behind to every dinner party you host. My parents did this. It was an indelible lesson in loyalty and love.

Jeanne Bishop grew up in Oklahoma City and is a public defender and human rights advocate who has written for online publications including Huffington Post and, magazines, newspapers, law journals, and academic books. Her memoir, Change of Heart: Justice, Mercy, and Making Peace with My Sister’s Killer, chronicles the murder of three of her family members and her forgiveness of, and reconciliation with, their killer.

Grace from the Rubble is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.

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