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Welch speaks out against death penalty

Ashley Charnley | Thursday, November 8, 2007

Bud Welch, the father of one of the 168 people who died in the Oklahoma City bombing, spoke against the death penalty during Wednesday’s Right to Life meeting in LaFortune.

“Normal human beings do not feel good out of watching another human being’s last breath,” Welch said. He said Americans have a limited understanding of the death penalty and need to learn more.

“Education, education, education,” he said.

During his talk, Welch focused on his struggle to forgive Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. Welch’s daughter, Julie, who worked at the Oklahoma City federal building, was among the people killed.

Welch was devastated when his daughter died. He wanted to see McVeigh killed.

“All of my life I opposed the death penalty. Now, I didn’t even want them to have a trial,” Welch said. He turned to alcohol to ease the pain.

But one day, as he stood in front of the memorial that was built up in front of the Federal Building, Welch realized he needed to move forward.

“Julie not only opposed the death penalty, she was active against it,” Welch said. Three weeks after he stood in front of the Federal Building, Welch decided the death penalty was wrong. He started to speak out and tell Julie’s story.

As a teenager, Julie Welch was very interested in foreign language. She traveled to Spain as an exchange student during her junior year of high school and later got a scholarship to Marquette for her achievement in foreign language. She attended Marquette and, during her sophomore year, went abroad again. She got her degree in Spanish and became a translator.

When Welch saw Bill McVeigh, Timothy McVeigh’s father, doing an interview on television shortly after the bombing occurred, he decided he wanted to meet him and tell him he did not blame Bill McVeigh for what his son had done. Three years later, he got his chance.

Welch visited Bill McVeigh in Buffalo, N.Y., in the house where Timothy was raised. While he was at the house, he also met Timothy’s sister, Jennifer. The three of them sat at the dining room table and talked.

After a couple hours, Welch got up to leave. He shook Bill McVeigh’s hand, and when he went to shake Jennifer’s hand, she hugged him instead. They began to cry, and he looked her in the eye and said, “I don’t want your brother to die, and I’ll do everything I can do to make sure that doesn’t happen.”

Despite Welch’s efforts, on June 11, 2001, McVeigh was killed.

“They took Timothy McVeigh out of his cage and killed him,” Welch said. “When parents die, we take them to the hilltop and bury them. When children die, we bury them in our hearts.”

The Notre Dame Against State Killing campaign brought Welch to campus as the fourth speaker in its fall event series. Notre Dame Right to Life and the Law School’s Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty co-sponsored Welch’s visit. Welch will speak today at 12:15 in room 101 of the Law School and again at 7:30p.m. in room C-103 of the Hesburgh Center.