“Wind out of Oklahoma this morning Smelled like blood and smoke And the crows discussed their future In the branches of their Louisiana live oak” —the Mountain Goats, “Pink and Blue”, 2002

At 9:02am on April 19th, 1995, jihad came to the American heartland: an improvised truck bomb ripped through the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168—including 15 children in the building’s daycare—in what remains America’s deadliest act of domestic terrorism. As firefighters and other heroes ventured into the wreckage, a scene described as “hell on earth”, to save as many people as they could from the rubble, the city’s cable news stations scrambled to begin broadcasting about the bombing—and its rumored Middle Eastern connection. Reports soon trickled in that three Middle Eastern-seeming men had been seen speeding away from the building in a brown Chevy pickup truck (Oklahoma City had a sizable Islamic population); Iranian radicals had issued a fatwa on buildings under the protection of the U.S. Marshals Service, such as the Murrah building’s neighboring federal courthouse, weeks earlier (and it was noted that the type of bomb used on the Murrah resembled that of the Iranian-backed AMIA bombing in Argentina the year prior); a local Jordanian man, said to resemble an eyewitness report of the Chevy’s passengers, was even detained by officials for questioning. It seemed obvious.

And it was untrue.


To the entire world, my father never outgrew the music of his youth. Paying tribute to Bruce Springsteen and Queen seemed to animate him, take him back to a time when he was a young boy in Tehran, passing around foreign rock cassettes with his friends like they were samizdat. Whenever asked by any one of the revolving door of family friends he would welcome into our home, he would insist, with a bemused smirk on his face, that “Land of Confusion” by Genesis would forever remain his favorite song—this is the world we live in! Everybody saw him as a diehard fan of the oldies: a bit of a simple taste in music, sure, but a respectable one nonetheless.

And only I knew better.


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