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Encore: Waco | Day 51 | 6

Encore: Waco | Day 51 | 6

Tue, 05 Jul 2022 07:01

The Branch Davidians prepare to surrender. But their plan unravels when they face the FBI, which is under intense pressure to get quick results.

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To listen to American scandal one week early and add free, join Wondry Plus in the Wondry app. Download the Wondry app in your Apple or Google Play mobile app store today. This is a special encore presentation of our series on the standoff in Waco, Texas, which originally aired in 2020. It's an investigation of a shocking story that sparked a national debate about religious freedom and the power of the federal government. We hope you enjoy. A listener note, this episode contains references to adult content and language and contains material that some might find offensive. It's just before dawn on March 25, 1993. Outside Waco, Texas, the early morning sky is still full of stars. A gentle wind drives through the prairie grasses, and at Mount Carmel Center, everything and everyone is still quiet. But suddenly a screeching noise fills the morning air. It's the high-pitched wine of a dentist's drill, and it's coming from loudspeakers which play the terrible sounds at ear-piercing levels. Inside the men's dormant Mount Carmel, Steve Schneider grimaces from his bottom bunk. He hears groans and muttering all around him. People are stirring in the darkness miserable. It's become impossible for anyone to sleep now that the FBI is blasting tortuous sounds through giant speakers all night. And that's not the only problem inside Mount Carmel. The fresh food is now gone, and so members of the community are living off their stockpiles of rations. It's bland, barely edible, and even their drinking water is running low. Their water well runs on electricity, and the FBI shut the power off long ago. Schneider forces himself out of bed, slips on his jeans. He lights a carousine lantern and steps into the hallway. The orange glow flickers against the wall, which is now lined with bales of straw. This is how they'll protect themselves against bullets if the FBI launches an all-out attack. As Schneider heads down the hallway, he hears a rumble at the back of the building. He pauses. His heart racing. That's the sound of government tanks advancing. Schneider races up the stairs to get a look from the second story window. In the hallway, he sees David Kuresh, who's still seated on the floor. Kuresh grits his teeth and strains to sit up. Two men lock eyes briefly. Schneider can see that just like him, Kuresh is livid. The two have an anger at the government that feels electric. Schneider reaches the window and peers out. He can see the army tank silhouetted by the FBI's spotlights. They're heading straight toward the rear wall of Mount Carmel. This is it, thanks Schneider. His pulse is quickening. The final battle. Schneider is about to sound the alarm when the tank suddenly grind to a stop. He hears a metallic crunch. The tanks begin moving a pile debris with their bulldozer blades. And now he can see what's buried under the rubble. It's metal and glass. What used to be a red Chevy Ranchero, which the tanks crushed last week. Schneider exhales audibly. His shoulders slumping in relief. No, not an attack he yells to Kuresh. No Schneider thinks. That's just the FBI continuing to terrify the people inside Mount Carmel. Schneider leaves the window and sits down across from Kuresh. He feels all the adrenaline drain out of him. He's left with nothing but deep exhaustion. David, I can't take any more of this. How do we make this end? Kuresh clenches his jaw and scowls. This ends when God says it ends. We'll wait until he speaks to me. David, wasting away here is no victory. We're going to run out of food and water. We need to do something. And we need to do it now. Kuresh looks into Schneider's eyes. And right then Schneider recognizes the flash of insight that sometimes comes to the prophet. Or we'll have our victory, Steve. God will show me the path to deliverance during Passover. I know he will. Schneider shakes his head. The government agents are already impatient. They've been pressing him harder and harder to send more people out. But David Passover is two weeks away. Even if he could hold out that long, the FBI wouldn't let us. They don't care what we believe. I'm not talking about beliefs. What I'm telling you is, come Passover. God will show me the way. Schneider nods, feeling a strange mix of anger, love, and dread. He reminds himself for what seems like the Millenth time. Only David Kuresh holds the key to the community salvation. But he wonders if the prophet will ever turn that key. Schneider stands up and returns to the window. Down below the tank drivers continue their senseless destruction. They'll come for us soon, Schneider thinks. They'll come. He will be powerless to stop them. Kuresh is sentencing them to die. Judy, his former wife, all the people in Mount Carmel he lives with and loves. Schneider stares out the window into the horizon. He catches the exact moment that dawn breaks and turns the prairie gold and red. And for Steve Schneider, it looks like the light from a distant fire. 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As the standoff, near its fifth week, some 60 adults and 20 children still remained inside Mount Carmel, and what began as a secret raid turned into a global event with audiences around the world tuning in to watch live. This public attention put the FBI under increasing pressure to end the standoff once and for all. This is episode 6, day 51. It's the evening of March 25, 1993, day 26 of the standoff at Mount Carmel. At the FBI command post, 8 miles northeast of Mount Carmel, Gary Nessner packs up his suitcase. He rubs his tired eyes and steps out of the command post, which hums with activity day and night. It's been another grueling day in central Texas. Nessner is the FBI's chief negotiator, and in the days since he arrived, he spent nearly every waking minute consumed with ending the standoff. There's never been a break, not even tonight, as he drives down a dark highway headed back to his hotel. As he glides down the dark road, he spots a car with a bumper sticker that says, Waco Proud. Nessner nods his head. The locals are sick of being known for this craze cult. It seems like everyone on the planet wants the standoff to end. Everyone except David Kuresh. Nessner grips the steering wheel tightly. He's still fuming about an earlier meeting with Jeff Jamar. Jamar is the top FBI commander at Waco, but in Nessner's opinion, he's too quick to use force. Next days ago, Nessner's team got seven adults out of Mount Carmel, including Sheila Martin, the wife of Kuresh's close legal advisor, Wayne Martin. But Jamar failed to recognize this achievement, which was thanks to the negotiators and their diplomacy. Even worse, Jamar later sent in more tanks to harass Mount Carmel. Nessner arrives at the hotel and heads up to his room. He lies down on the bed and flips on the TV. There's Mount Carmel yet again. A compound is flooded with stadium lights, surrounded by tanks, loudspeakers are blaring. The camera then cuts to a TV pundit, who says the FBI is failing, and it's incapable of winning the standoff. Just then the phone rings. Nessner is exhausted, but he knows he can't ignore the call. Yeah, hello, this is Nessner. A cheery voice comes over the line. Gary, it's Rob Grace. Grace is Nessner's boss back at the FBI office in Virginia. Oh, hello, sir. What can I do for you? So, I know it's late, but I wanted to tell you. I think you and your team are doing a great job down there in Waco. I mean, getting 21 kids out of the compound, that's a real accomplishment. Well, thank you, sir. But listen. Grace pauses, measuring his words, and immediately Nessner feels himself tense up. Something bad is coming. Yeah, so the reason I'm calling is, look, Gary, it's time for you to step up. Step down as chief negotiator. You've been going nonstop for coming up on Waco at five weeks now. It's time for you to get a little ornore. Nessner knows exactly what this means. The FBI brass want him out. Sir, I feel that I'm really needed down here. Let me and my team see this through. I feel the negotiating team will be all right. But, sir, Gary, it's done. You fly out tomorrow morning. Nessner is stunned. He stares at the TV at Mount Carmel at the tanks and the wreckage that lies in their wake. He wants to protest, but he stops himself. It's no use. Yes, sir. Understood. Nessner hangs up the phone. He's tired. Numb. He turns off the TV and stares at the ceiling. Nessner set out to get every man, woman, and child out of Mount Carmel. He's fallen far short of that. And he has a terrible feeling that he'll always have unfinished business in Waco. It's early April, week five of the standoff. At the FBI command post, Byron Sage sits at a desk waiting for an important meeting, a meeting that could set the standoff on a new course. After Gary Nessner was removed as chief negotiator, Sage stepped in as the de facto leader of the negotiating team. He was sorry to see Nessner go, but he's continued to push hard for a peaceful solution, even if progress has been slow coming. Sage has spoken on the phone with David Kuresh and Steve Schneider almost every day for five weeks straight, but it's been two weeks since any adult has walked through the doors of Mount Carmel. Kuresh hasn't released any children in more than a month. Sage stands up. It's time for his meeting with the FBI's commander, Jeff Jamar. Sage walks past rows of agents all huddled over computer monitors. They have dark rings under their eyes and they look worn thin, just like Sage. Everyone is sick of living off cold pizza and they're tired of David Kuresh, having to organize their lives around the whims of a madman. Sage enters Jamar's office. The commander is hunched over his desk, his expression stern, he gestures for Sage to sit and asks if there's been any progress in getting people out of Mount Carmel. Sage sighs and shakes his head. Jamar leans in. He wants to know the truth. Can they get David Kuresh to surrender? Sage takes a moment, it swallows hard. It's difficult to admit after weeks of effort, but he tells Jamar what he believes. The negotiator seems to have exhausted their options. At this point, Sage is convinced that David Kuresh doesn't care about anyone inside. All he sees are ways to fulfill his own grandioso vision. Sage bites his lip before offering his final assessment. He's not sure what Kuresh will do if they don't act soon. Jamar nods. He says he's glad Sage has come around on the point because the agency has a new solution in mind. It's a plan codenamed Jericho. Sage recognizes the name Jericho from the famous siege in the Bible. Jamar picks up an aerial photograph of Mount Carmel. He points to the compound and explains that according to the plan, tanks will approach Mount Carmel with specialized equipment, outfitted with 30 foot arms. These arms will act like pipes that can penetrate the compound. Through these pipes, the tanks will then inject tear gas going room by room. They'll release the gas over a 48-hour period. They're not looking to force the Davidians out immediately. Instead, they'll gradually shrink the living space inside the compound until the entire building is saturated with tear gas. At that point, the Davidians will have no choice but to come out. Jamar looks up from the aerial photograph. He says that once they put Jericho into action, they'll need someone to tell the Davidians about the tear gas and to help talk them out of the building. He wants Sage to fill that role. Jamar also explains that the highest levels of the FBI are on board. Soon, the FBI director will help present the plan to Janet Reno, President Clinton's new attorney general. When Eferino gives the OK, the tactical team will immediately put the plan into action. But right now, Jamar wants to know if Sage is on board with the plan. Sage lets his mind imagine what will surely be a frightening scene inside Mount Carmel. He can picture the thundering tanks, the white clouds of tear gas filling room after room. It's a risky plan, but keeping Koresh in place feels even riskier. This has to end on the FBI's terms. The Byron Sage tells Jamar he's in. It's April 14, 1993, and now day 46 of the standoff. David Tibido smiles as he bounds up the stairs to the second floor of Mount Carmel. He feels light on his feet. His former bulk has wasted away after six weeks of combat rations, and the hardships of the long siege have purged his last spiritual doubts. For the first time in his life, Tibido feels like he understands what faith truly means. At the top of the stairs, Tibido stops and grins. Here David Koresh sits up against the wall, surrounded by a large group of followers. Tibido sees his own hope reflected on their faces. Earlier today, Koresh announced that he will end the standoff once and for all. God spoke to the prophet at the end of Passover. He instructed Koresh to write down his interpretation of the Seven Seals. Tibido said it will take two weeks, three tops, so he called the FBI and said as soon as he finishes writing the seals, he'll surrender. There will be no change of plans. Tibido scans the crowd and spots his wife, Michelle. She sits with Serenity, her four-year-old daughter, who she had with Koresh. Tibido goes and sits down beside them, and Serenity crawls into his lap. He smiles at her as she settles in. Settling on Koresh is a look of calm and clarity, and then he begins to speak, exalted and proud, as if God is flowing through him. He begins dictating the first of the Seven Seals. Next to him, Judy Schneider types furiously on a typewriter. She takes down every one of his words, even though for the last six weeks, she's had a wound in her hand where she was shot. Koresh's voice rises. He says that he who is chosen to open the seals will be persecuted. He exactly has he and his followers have been persecuted these long weeks. Tibido smiles at Michelle and grips Serenity tightly. Together they've outlasted these hardships. The endless screeching from the loudspeakers, the dwindling supply of food and water, the abundance of death and fear and suffering. But as Tibido sits among his family, he finally feels at peace. Because once David Koresh finishes the seals, together they will emerge from out-carmel. The world will see that they are God's chosen people. It's early morning on April 19th, 1993. It's now day 51 of the standoff. The sky above Mount Carmel is still dark, and across the road from the compound, Byron Sage walks through furious gusts of wind. He covers his eyes, protecting them from the dust in the air, and he reaches the door of a one-story house the FBI uses as an observation post. This here that he'll help to end this long, painful standoff. The day before yesterday, Attorney General Reno gave her final approval for the Jericho plan. Now Sage is preparing to make what he prays is the final phone call to Mount Carmel. He's written out exactly what he plans to say. He'll make it clear that the standoff has reached an endpoint. The FBI will use tear gas, but they're not intending to harm the dividends. At this point the group will have no choice but to surrender. According to House Sage takes up his position at the window. Here he can watch the plan unfold. The tanks are already in position. Each is fitted with a 30-foot arm, along with a canister that sprays tear gas. Within 48 hours, Mount Carmel will be uninhabitable. As Sage looks out the window, an FBI technician hurries beside him. The agent set up a TV beside Sage so that he can watch the news coverage of the operation in real time. Sage also has a PA system in case he's not able to reach Mount Carmel by phone. It will project his voice into the building, loud enough to be heard of the roar of the tank's engines. Sage checks his watch. It's 5.59 AM. He picks up the phone and dials Mount Carmel. It's time to announce that this standoff has come to a close. American scandal is sponsored by the Mobile Mystery Game, June's Journey. There's nothing like a good who-done-it. You get pulled in, wondering, theorizing, searching for clues. But what if you could really join in on the hunt? If you love classic murder mysteries as much as I do, I want to test your powers of observation. The hidden object game, June's Journey, will awaken your inner sleuth. It's a fascinating story. Imagine you're living in the roaring 20s, but it's not all champagne and caviar. 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Tubito reaches down and feels a cool grip of his glock pistol. Kuresh and Steve Schneider issued him the gun, along with a rifle which he uses for his guard duties. Still, Tubito seriously doubts he could shoot another human being, not even someone who played bagpipe noises at ear piercing levels all throughout the night. Tubito's size has been so long since he's had a good night's sleep, he can feel himself nodding off. But then his eyes snap open, it's the phone line the FBI negotiators use. Tubito wonders why they're calling at this hour and picks up quickly. Hello? Hello, this is Byron Sage, can I speak to Steve? Steve's still asleep. Could you go get him, please, I need to talk to him right now. Yeah, all right, hold on. Tubito stumbles down the corridor, muttering to himself. He's sick of the FBI's demands, all the harassment. He enters the men's dorm room and sees Schneider asleep on his bottom bunk. His dark blonde hair fanned out on the pillow. Tubito nudges him gently. Hey, Steve, Steve, wake up. The FBI wants you on the phone, I think something's happening. Schneider bolts awake, startled. What, what's going on? I don't know, I don't know. It's Byron Sage, he wants to speak with you right away, he says. Suddenly, Tubito hears the familiar rumble of tanks. He opens the window shade above his bed and the two men look out. Down in the yard, tanks are advancing. This time they have long, metal poles extended out in front of them, like menacing claws, and they're not slowing down. Schneider's eyes go wide. This is it, we're under attack. Tubito rushes down the hallway, sounding illarm. He then avoids booms over the loudspeakers. The siege is over, we're putting Tear Gas into the building. David and Steve lead your people out of there. Tubito freezes for a moment. They've prepared for this kind of scenario and all the adults have gas masks under their beds. He grabs his and continues to the women's door. As he races the hallway, the voice on the loudspeaker once again rattles the building. This is not an assault, we are not entering the building. It's your space, unenable, come out now. What Tubito has no intention of following these instructions, he's sure he'll be shot if he exits the building. So instead he continues down the hallway. People emerge from their rooms tired and confused and knocking into each other. Tubito pushes through the crush of bodies looking for Michelle and the kids. He pictures serenity in her smiling face, which is too small for any gas mask. The mothers know to put wet blankets over the children as a barrier against Tear Gas. They know how to protect themselves and if the FBI thinks anyone is walking out of here, they don't understand what it means to have a faith what it's dying for. Across the road from Mount Carmel and the small one-story house, Byron Sage leans forward at the window. He's holding his microphone which is connected to the loudspeakers across the road and he's straining to see what's happening at the compound. It looks like the first tanks have reached the Davidians and so he speaks again into the microphone. This is not an assault he repeats. He urges people to exit. He waits and watches, squeezing the microphone tighter, trying to make out any sign that people are exiting the compound. There's a crackle on the FBI radio. The commander of the tactical team comes on. He announces that the first tank has delivered Tear Gas into the compound. As Sage listens to the update, he pictures the tank nozzle breaking through a window and delivering a steady stream of noxious white gas. He thums the button of the mic again and repeats the call for surrender. And right then a voice comes over the radio, shouting, compromise, compromise. Sage's heart sinks. This is a code word and it means only one thing. Someone inside Mount Carmel has fired on the tanks. This plan, Jericho, was supposed to last 48 hours. But now only a few minutes into it, the Davidians have begun shooting. That means the plan automatically escalates. The FBI will immediately drop their strategy of gradual pressure. Instead, they'll move to quickly overwhelm the entire compound. Sage has seen the escalation plan. Under it, Bradley tanks will rapidly fire canisters full of Tear Gas into all corners of the buildings. Sage canisters the size of a football and is capable of penetrating windows and even doors. It's clear that this plan is now underway. From the window Sage watches as the tanks maneuver on the prairie. He continues to plead over the loudspeaker, begging Kuresh and Schneider to lead their people out. He glances at the TV news coverage, which shows the tanks blasting round after round into Mount Carmel. Sage yells at the technician to get the TV out of there. He is enough to manage, he doesn't need to think about the entire country watching this. The radio crackles again. It's the tactical team, announcing that Tear Gas has been delivered into every section of the compound. The tank drivers pull back and await new orders. For a moment, everything goes quiet. Sage can only imagine what it's like inside Mount Carmel. The compound must be filling with Tear Gas. People inside will be coughing, eyes burning, struggling for air. Every biological instinct should be urging these people toward the exits. And yet Sage hasn't seen a single person run to safety. He's baffled. He wonders how more than 80 people can stay put in these conditions. Even if the adults have gas masks, there wouldn't be any that fit the children. Why aren't the mothers rushing their kids outside? Minutes pass. Still there's no sign of movement. Again Sage pleads of the loudspeaker. He warns that another round of Tear Gas will be coming if people don't exit. Like Rogers, the leader of the tactical team jumps in on the radio. He says that Kuresh must be blocking the women and children from exiting the building. Jeff Jamar, the on-scene commander, responds immediately. He orders the tanks to plow into Mount Carmel's walls. That will open new avenues for escape. So the tanks rumble forward and Sage feels his breath grow short. The tanks move slowly, getting closer and closer to the buildings. And then all at once, Sage hears the crashing. As the tanks break through the walls of Mount Carmel. Inside the compound, David Tubito staggers down the hallway and through a billowing cloud of white gas. His face is covered with a gas mask, but it still feels hard to breathe. He wonders if the filter is already running out. He checks the women's quarters to see if any children are still inside. The room is eerily empty. He hopes they're all safe in the concrete shelter and that none of them have fallen into the FBI's hands. Tubito reaches the first floor landing and there he hears a loud crunch of wood and metal. He turns and sees the piano they pushed against the front door. A tank has shoved it halfway into the hall. He then hurries to the chapel where there's a gathering of the adults who don't have children to care for. He sees them kneeling at the pews, praying and wearing their gas masks. Suddenly a nozzle from one of the tanks burst through the wall of the room. White gas comes out with a frightening hiss. As the room fills with white clouds, Tubito hears the sound of uneven footsteps. He looks up and sees David Kresh stumble into the chapel. Kresh is limping heavily from his wounds, but the site is incredible. It's the first time in weeks that the prophet has been upright. Kresh presses his hand against his wounded side, but his eyes look fierce. He gazes across his flock and tells them to hold tight. They're trying to establish communication with the FBI. Then Kresh pulls on his gas mask and disappears down the hallway. The FBI loudspeakers blare again. The voice urges Kresh to come out and says, Be a Messiah David, not a destroyer. Tubito hears a loud groan and then the cracking of wood being split apart. He turns and sees a wall collapse as the tank breaks through. The gaseous air fills with debris from the crumbling building and that's when he hears a wounded cry from someone inside Mount Carmel. They shout a single word, fire. He turns just as a giant timber being crashes down through the chapel. An orange glow begins to fill the room. Tubito's eyes dart left and right and then he spots the fire racing up the wall. It's climbing faster, spreading wildly. Tubito drops on his hands and knees and as quickly as he can, crawls toward a hole in wall, punched by one of the tanks. It's 1pm at FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. Gary Nessner sits in the conference room surrounded by several other FBI agents. For six straight hours they've been transfixed, watching the events in Texas unfold on a giant TV screen. They've seen the tank smashing through the walls of Mount Carmel, the tear gas being funneled into the compound. It's been weeks since Nessner was the chief negotiator when he still can't let go of this case or his anger as he watches the FBI escalate the conflict. He knows this is all supposed to force his surrender, but he also knows it'll do just the opposite. There's no way that mothers will carry their children toward massive tanks. As he watches the TV, the channel cuts back to the live stream as the anchor announces some breaking news. There's a fire in the southeast corner of the Davidian compound. Nessner leans forward in his chair. He can see the flames. At first they're just a small orange glow at the edge of the screen, but the fire spreads quickly, leaping with terrible speed. Nessner's anger grows with the flames. He's furious at crash for letting it come to this, and he's also furious at Jeff Jamar and Dick Rogers and the tactical team. If they just had more patience, he sure his team could have saved more of the children and all the people now trapped inside that burning building. Nessner sits frozen in his chair, watching the flames grow larger, the fire spreads, whipped fearlessly by the high prairie winds. And then the nightmare becomes real. There's an explosion. A giant fireball climbs through the sky above Mount Carmel and the building collapses. The FBI man in the room goes silent. Nessner holds his hand over his mouth and is stunned. He closes his eyes, trying to steady his own breath, and he rises. And without speaking a word to anyone. Nessner turns his back on the flames, walked out of the room. If you're into true crime, the Generation Y podcast is essential listening. We started this podcast over 10 years ago to dissect some of the craziest and most notable murders, crimes, and conspiracy theories together, and we'd love for you to join us. Generation Y is one of the longest running true crime podcasts out there, and we are still at it, unraveling a new case every week. We break down infamous cases like the Evil Genius Bank robbery, and lesser known cases like the case of Kimberly Rico. Did she actually kill her husband after they took part in a murder mystery game? We cover every angle, breaking down theories, diving deep into forensic evidence, and interviewing those close to the case. And with over 450 episodes, there's a little something for every true crime listener. Follow the Generation Y podcast on Amazon Music, or every listen to podcasts. Or you can listen ad-free by joining Wundery Plus in the Wundery app. It's April 21, 1993. Sheila Martin sits on a bed, percing her lips, and squeezing her eyes shut. But no matter how hard she tries, the tears just keep coming, running down her cheeks in an endless stream. It's been two days since Mount Carmel was consumed by fire, and right now, Martin is staying at a Salvation Army halfway house. She's by herself alone. Soon though, she'll be driven to her appointment at child protective services. She'll finally get to see her three youngest kids. They were the children she handed over to the FBI early in the siege. She still doesn't know what she'll say to them, or how to process everything that's happened since she last saw them. Two days ago, when the fire broke out, Martin was watching the news in the halfway house's TV room. The reporters were talking about tear gas and saying no one could stay in the building for long. Finally, she thought, standoff would be over. She imagined reuniting with her four oldest children and her husband Wayne. She could feel it, wrapping them in her arms and never letting go. But then the tanks came. And on TV, she saw the fire. She prayed that the children had escaped out the back of the building, but then she saw a mount calmer collapse into the flames. And she knew right away that Wayne was dead. Still she couldn't accept that her children were gone too. The newscaster said 20 people had survived. She had to believe her children were among them. Then the reporter said only nine survived. She kept believing. But it wasn't until she heard the names of the survivors that her hope was snuffed out. Now, sitting on the edge of a bunk bed, Martin hears someone approaching. She looks up and finds the kind face of the woman who directs the halfway house. She says it's time to go. The director drives Martin to the child protective services building where her three remaining children are waiting inside. Just earlier today, they came from a nearby foster care facility. Martin enters and takes a seat in a lobby full of waiting parents. An official comes through the heavy wood door and calls her name. Her heart leaps and she feels both woozy with excitement and overwhelmed. It's going to hurt to see the kids after everything they've all been through. The official gives her a cold look and warns her she's not allowed to cry. They've already been through a lot. And so if Martin cries, they'll have to take the children back to the foster home immediately. Martin stops and stares at this man and disbelief, but she knows she can't protest. She wants to see her little ones even more than she needs to grieve with them, so she nods in agreement. Moments later, the kids come streaming into the room. 10-year-old Jamie enters in his wheelchair and 6-year-old Daniel and 4-year-old Kimberly run up to hug her. She feels her heart swell and with all of her mind, she holds back her tears. Kimberly talks excitedly about the foster home, the new toys, the new kids. Martin furrows her brow. She doesn't think this is good. If she doesn't get her kids back soon, she'll lose them to this foreign world. Then heads to Jamie, holds him and sings to him a little tune. She remembers David Kuresh praying for her son when the boy got sick, back in the days of the Palestine camp. She remembers how happy she was. All the families were together, living simply among those beautiful pines. Those days are long past. David Kuresh is dead and their entire world is gone. There's a knock on the door of the visiting room. Her time is up. Martin kisses her children goodbye and assures them they'll be together again soon. Even this short reunion has brought her a glimmer of hope. Soon she'll be released from the halfway house. She'll find some kind of job. She'll rent a house. She'll do all the earthly things the government requires of her in order to get her kids back. And she knows that Sunday, she'll see the rest of her family and friends in heaven. For now, God has asked her to continue on Earth. Since April 19th, 1995, the two-year anniversary of the fire at Mount Carmel. Today, David Tibido stands before the small, sullen crowd that's gathered near the ruins of the compound. The rain falls from the sky and sheets, turning the prairie dark brown. Tibido's mind drifts back to that terrible day. He remembers the screams, the confusion, the heat of the fire. He remembers when he saw the gap in the wall of the burning building. He was sure he'd get shot if he made his way outside, but in the end he ran for it and he survived. Tibido heads over to a replica of the Liberty Bell. During today's ceremony, he'll ring it as another survivor reads the names of the dead. The 74 who perished the day of the fire as well as the six who died during the ATF raid. Tibido starts ringing the bell and the crowd listens to the names of the dead. Wayne Martin, Julie Martinez, Michelle Jones. The names bring back memories for Tibido of life in Mount Carmel and his friends and spiritual family. Tibido scans the crowd and notices Sheila Martin. She's wearing a white dress and beside her are her three remaining children. After the final name, Tibido rings the bell one last time. As soon as it fades to silence and the ceremony is over, Tibido is asked questions by a news reporter. David Tibido, do you still believe David Kuresh was Jesus Christ? I believe he was a prophet, but not Jesus. Tibido grits his teeth. He can't believe that today of all days the media would come here and badger him with questions of theology. If I answer that, you'll just twist my words the way you always do. Well do you have comment about the Oklahoma City bombing this morning? It can't be coincidence that it happened on the anniversary of the Waco fire. Tibido frowns. Sorry, what are you talking about? I mean, you heard. A bomb went off at a federal building in Oklahoma City. There are numerous fatalities. The daycare there took the brunt of the blast. Tibido stands there in confusion. And so the reporter invites him to look at the images on their TV monitors. Tibido walks over and what he sees makes his eyes go wide. On screen are rescuers in Oklahoma, moving through a blasted building and charred wreckage. Tibido stands there, unable to speak, wondering, how is it that a peaceful community? A family, united by the word of God, how could their tragedy in Waco have led to this destruction? And when will it stop? On April 19th, 1993, Mt. Carmel erupted in flames, leaving only nine Davidian survivors. This is one of the few undisputed facts about the siege in Waco. Everything else from the government's motives to the Davidian's actions has been questioned by both sides. FBI negotiator Byron Sage has devoted decades to defending the agency and the way it handled the standoff. An independent investigation in the year 2000 vindicated Sage's views. It noted substantial evidence that the Davidians had started the fire inside Mt. Carmel, rather than surrender to the FBI. The evidence included audio from FBI bugging devices, which picked up Steve Schneider, ordering the start of the blaze. Later, another survivor confessed that Kuresh had ordered the building set on fire in the event of an FBI attack. But other survivors, including David Tubito, continued to deny these accusations. They claimed the FBI started the blaze when their tanks fired hundreds of volatile tear gas canisters into the building. The bulk of the evidence supports the government view that the Davidians started the fire, yet legitimate questions remain over who is to blame for the events leading up to the tragedy. Many ask whether the Davidians might have run to safety if the government hadn't used harsh techniques during the standoff. Kuresh also questioned the ATF's decision to launch a military-style assault on Mt. Carmel, rather than waiting to arrest David Kuresh outside the compound. Others were outraged by what they saw as an unprovoked violation of constitutionally guaranteed protections, the right to religious expression, and the right to bear arms. In some cases, this outraged fueled further violence. In 1995, Timothy McVeigh carried out the deadly bombing in Oklahoma City, and claimed it was a retaliation for the government's actions at Waco. Ultimately, what happened at Waco may never be fully understood. What is clear is that both sides struggled to find common ground. David Kuresh painted the government as oppressive and bent on destroying an innocent religious community. Meanwhile, many in the government reduced the divideans to a dangerous doomsday cult. Neither portrait was completely accurate. Perhaps if more people stopped to recognize the humanity on both sides of the standoff, there might have been a much different and better end to the story of the siege at Waco. While I'm wondering, this is Episode 6 of Waco from American Scandal. In our next episode, I speak with Eric Benson, a senior editor at the magazine Texas Monthly. In April 2018, Benson wrote a series of articles that helped shed new light on the tragedy at Mt. Carmel. We'll discuss how the public viewed Waco back in 1993 and how the event still shapes American life today. If you like our show, please give us a five star rating and leave a review and be sure to tell your friends. I also have two other podcasts you might like, American History Tellers and Business Movers. Follow on Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, or wherever you're listening right now. Or you can listen to new episodes early and ad-free by subscribing to OneGree Plus in Apple Podcasts or in the OneGree app. We'll also find some links and offers from our sponsors in the episode notes. Supporting them helps us keep offering our shows for free. Another way you can support this show is by filling out a small survey at slash survey to tell us what topics we might come next. You can also find us and me on Twitter. Follow me at Lindsay A. Graham, Lindsay with an A, Middle and Initially. And thank you. If you'd like to learn more about Waco, we recommend the reporting on the story in Texas Monthly by Eric Benson. This episode contains reenactments and dramatized details. In while in most cases we can't know exactly what was said, all our dramatizations are based on historical research. American scandal is hosted, edited, and executed produced by me, Lindsay Graham, for airship. Audio editing by Molly Bach, sound design by Derek Barrett's, music by Lindsay Graham. This episode is written by Michael Canyon Meyer, edited by Christina Malsberger. Our senior producer is Gabe Riven, executive producer, our Stephanie Gens, Jenny Lauer Beckman, and Marsha Louis for Wandery.