Bud Welch couldn't help himself. There he was, sitting at a kitchen table sharing idle talk in the home of a New York man he'd just met. And repeatedly during their conversation, he'd steal a glance at one 8-by-10 portrait on a wall decorated with family photos. His host surely had noticed his distraction. Finally, Welch had to say something.
"What a good-looking boy," Welch told Bill McVeigh.
That was Tim's high school graduation picture," the elder McVeigh told Welch. Then, a tear rolled down one of McVeigh's cheeks. The pain of three years surged over barriers of politeness and privacy erected amid the emotional rubble of the Oklahoma City bombing.
"I'm sorry your daughter got killed," McVeigh told Welch.
McVeigh's daughter Jennifer walked over and embraced Welch. "She was crying and sobbing," he said. "I said, `The three of us are in this for the rest of our lives."
This visit last fall between two fathers stuns societal senses. How could Welch bear looking at McVeigh's picture, let alone call him a "good-looking boy"?
But Welch said the love he has for his daughter, and the love another father still has for a condemned son, moved him to travel from Oklahoma City to the Buffalo area. He arranged to meet a man nationally scorned for fathering "a monster."
And by offering healing to this stranger, Welch said he gained it for himself.
"I've never felt closer to God than at that moment," Welch said last week during visits to Nashville and Memphis with families of murder victims against the death penalty. "I felt like a load had been lifted from me. Icared about him. For the rest of the day, I couldn't keep from sobbing."
That's why he sees no reason to respond with revenge and rage in his daughter's name. Instead, he offers healing over kitchen tables to fathers like himself still in love with their children.