* NY Times: Do Not Say His Name in Pendleton
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Do Not Say His Name In Pendleton
Evelyn Nieves, June 8, 1997, New York Times
OUTSIDE the Country Kitchen on Saturday morning, two men in polo shirts and jeans climbed out of a shiny red Jeep, grousing about the rain, when they froze in their tracks.
They had just spotted a reporter, pen and pad in hand.
”Oh, no, don’t,” said one, a blond man in his forties who looked like Drew Carey. His eyes were pleading.
”We can’t talk,” said the other, thinner, younger, dark-haired, as he backed away. ”It just wouldn’t be right.”
Inside the Country Kitchen, the only place in town to get a sit-down breakfast, people ate quietly, the conversation limited to the safe topics:
”It wasn’t supposed to rain.”
”Yeah, but the car show is still on.”
”Another great day to stay inside.”
Even now — or especially now — as their neighbors and children’s teachers head to Denver to help defense lawyers try to spare Timothy J. McVeigh from the death penalty, Pendleton does not want to talk about him.
PEOPLE are tired of hearing Pendleton called the hometown of the person responsible for the Oklahoma City bombing, the worst terrorist attack on United States soil.
At times, those who talk say, it seems as if the whole town, all 5,000 residents, has been on trial. Television crews from all over the world have landed at the parking lot of the Convenience FoodMart, sidled up to the regulars at Brauer’s fine food and spirits store and peered through the windows of the homes on Meyer Road, where the McVeigh family lives, as if there were some clue behind the living room curtains that could explain how a Timothy McVeigh came to be.
It is all too much. ”Get out of here!” a haggard-looking woman behind the Quick Draw counter at the Convenience store squawked, her voice like a car alarm, when a reporter approached. ”If you don’t leave, I’ll call the police and have you arrested for harassment!” She marched to a wall phone and started dialing.
It is hard to tell what residents think should happen to Timothy McVeigh, whether knowing him as a boy, as the son of a fine upstanding citizen, gives them the compassion defense lawyers so desperately need to save their client’s life. ”I think he should fry,” George Harris, 24, said as he pumped gas at the FoodMart. But then, he is from Cheektowaga, a good half-hour away.
”If you want to know what I think, the media is barking up the wrong tree coming here,” a customer pumping premium into a Taurus volunteered. He said he was a neighbor of the McVeighs, but he wouldn’t give his name. ”It’s just an unlucky accident that McVeigh came from here,” he said. ”When he was here, he was just an average person.”
PENDLETON is an average, middle-class suburb with split-levels and colonials and rhododendrons in the front yards. Most residents commute to jobs in Niagara Falls, Lockport and Tonawanda. They move here because it’s peaceful and the school — there is only one in the district — has a good reputation.
”People have become rather tired of the intrusions and the interruptions because of the freak chance that we’re connected to this situation,” said James Allen, principal of the Starpoint Central School, as he sat at his desk Friday afternoon. As he spoke, a camera crew from a Buffalo news station was waiting in the next room to interview teachers.
Starpoint Central is getting more than its share of attention since at least three of Timothy McVeigh’s former teachers have been subpoenaed to describe him.
No one knows what went wrong. At Starpoint, people remember a person.
”Everybody feels badly, because what everybody remembers is that he was never any problem,” Mr. Allen said. He was vice principal, the school’s disciplinarian, when Mr. McVeigh graduated in 1986.
”He did not need my services,” Mr. Allen said. ”He was actually just an all-round student, an above-average student with a high interest in writing.” If anyone had ever read his writing, he added, they’d see he had talent, a certain sensitivity not everyone could claim.