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A crowd in Indiana

Residents and businesses try to keep life in Terre Haute in perspective, but the influx of media and visitors isn't helping.

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 11, 2001


TERRE HAUTE, Ind. -- For the past two weeks, Paul and Dorothy Jackson and other parishioners at St. Benedict Church have knelt and, often in the same breath, prayed both for the victims of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and for their unrepentant killer, Timothy McVeigh.

"I'd like to see him save his soul," said Paul Jackson, 77, Saturday as he left Mass, where 230 people led by the Rev. Joel Burget prayed that victims of "violent acts of terrorism, guided by the spirit of truth, may know justice and peace."

That prayer was followed by a plea that "those who face capital punishment, guided by the spirit of truth, seek the forgiving love of Christ in their final hours."

It was a typical, if subtle, reference to the event that has engulfed this city. As if everyone at once could hear the ticktock of a clock winding down McVeigh's last hours, Terre Haute participated in its own collective countdown to Monday's execution.

Schools, libraries and county and city offices will be closed, and law-enforcement officials are on alert.

The commercial climate, particularly in hospitality industries, has both suffered and prospered in recent weeks as the execution was first postponed and then rescheduled, observers said.

Daniela Peck, assistant manager at the Fairfield Inn, said some hotels had more than doubled their rates to offset losses in revenue that resulted when Attorney General John Ashcroft postponed the execution from May 16 to today to allow McVeigh's attorneys to examine documents the FBI had failed to give them earlier.

As the host for several annual events -- including the Miss Indiana pageant -- and a popular stopover for cross-country travelers, Terre Haute has its share of seasonal business, said William Burdine, manager of the Holiday Inn near the prison.

Those events tend to fill the city's hotels, too. But, Burdine said, the city has never accommodated so many guests discussing deadlines on cellular phones in lobbies.

Preparations have been going on since January, when McVeigh let pass his final deadline to appeal his death sentence for killing 168 people in the bombing at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995.

"There's nothing that has had this kind of media impact," Burdine said. "It's having a major impact on the country and to Terre Haute."

Despite his own efforts to avoid talk of McVeigh, Adam Mitchell has found his establishment, M. Mogger's Brewery and Pub, catering to dozens of journalists.

"Personally, I've tried to minimize McVeigh's execution on my life. I try to downplay his importance."

What's most evident, though, is that folks here want the event to be over so they can return to normal life, the economic benefits notwithstanding. They are tired of the whole thing.

"It doesn't make a difference to me if it's tomorrow or the next day or the next day," said Jared Clapp, a manager at the Rally's hamburger restaurant in Terre Haute.

The people who did care one way or another were not in the least sympathetic to McVeigh.

"If I say what I'm really thinking, it's mean," said Tonya Smith, a preschool teacher in Clinton.

Helen Evans, 75, did not let the impending execution impede her daily routine. As the clock ticked down on McVeigh's life, as so many others rehashed his crime and pondered his legacy, she went to the Pharmor discount store to buy some geraniums.

"People are staying inside, or going about their regular day, like me," Evans said. "I just wanted to get some flowers."

- Information from Newsday and the New York Times was used in this report.

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From the Times wire desk
  • McVeigh upbeat, ready to die
  • Coroner prepares to sign death certificate
  • Request to tape execution denied
  • An end in Oklahoma
  • A crowd in Indiana
  • Demonstrators decry 'killing in our name'

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