"How much practice did it take to plan a human sacrifice? How many mornings had the killers sat outside that federal building, making judgments about where and when to park their bomb, which recipe to use, how to make sure that the full force of the blast hit the building square in its belly? And when the day finally came, the truck loaded and the time set, did they wait and watch the children go in, hand in hand with their parents, before they drove away?
"The whole world watched the children come out. The lucky ones sobbed and bled and called brokenly for the parents they had left only minutes before. Most of their friends remained buried inside. The rescuers wept as they cradled them, limp and weightless; fire fighters could not bear to look down at the children in their arms. "Find out who did this," one told Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating. "All that I have found are a baby's finger and an American flag." That may turn out to be a poignant, gruesome icon. How easy it was to assume that the attack must have come from outside. America may no longer be safe from imported terrorism, but we weren't supposed to grow it here at home."
Read the complete 1995 TIME cover story
Photo Essay: Just days before the scheduled execution of Timothy McVeigh, photographer David Leeson visited the Oklahoma City Bombing Memorial for TIME.com