OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – An Oklahoma City woman who lost two young grandsons in the Oklahoma City Bombing, yet found the compassion to forgive one of the conspirators, has died.
Jannie M. Coverdale died March 2, 2022, at the age of 84, according to her obituary.
Coverdale became a symbol of perseverance following the death of her grandsons, five-year-old Aaron Coverdale and two-year-old Elijah Coverdale.
Timothy McVeigh parked a truck in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City on the morning of April 19, 1995. The truck was loaded with a bomb made from agricultural fertilizer, diesel fuel and other chemicals. At 9:02 a.m. the bomb exploded.
The blast ripped through the Murrah Building, killing 168 people and injuring several hundred others.
Oklahoma and the United States as a whole were devastated by the bombing. The FBI described the bombing as the “worst act of homegrown terrorism in the nation’s history.”
Emergency responders from across the nation hurried to Oklahoma to help Oklahoma City crews search through the rubble for both survivors and the victims who perished.
Jannie held strong to hope that Aaron and Elijah survived.
“I’m almost positive that Aaron and Elijah will be found alive,” she said in the days following the bombing.
But their little bodies would be found in the rubble. Aaron and Elijah were among the 19 children who died in the blast.
“I kept saying I believe in miracles,” Jannie told KFOR in 2015. “When they came and told me they had identified their bodies, I started screaming at God and I told him I would never serve him again. And I meant it.”
Anger and depression consumed Jannie. The pain became unbearable.
“I got out of bed. I poured all of my Xanax in my hand and I got a glass of water. And just as I was taking my hand into my mouth, a voice asked me, ‘Are you sure you want to do this to the rest of your family?’ And I knew who was talking to me. And I said, “Oh no, Lord. No.”
Jannie had found the strength to survive unimaginable despair, and she would find peace through forgiveness.
McVeigh was convicted and put to death for the mass murder. His Army friend Terry Nichols, who helped him gather materials and assemble the bomb, was sentenced to life in prison in 1998 for one count of conspiracy and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter. Nichols also received 161 consecutive life sentences in 2004 on 161 counts of first-degree murder.
Jannie wrote a scathing letter to Nichols. He wrote back, asking Jannie to please forgive him for the pain and suffering he caused her and her family.
A correspondence continued for several more years, with Nichols at one point saying the bombing “should never have happened.
“I had a journey. A very long journey. And my anger really didn’t go away until I started writing Terry Nichols,” Jannie told KFOR. “And he asked me to forgive him.”
Jannie forgave Nichols.
In the years after the bombing, Jannie became a voice for the lives lost in the Oklahoma City Bombing and the families left grieving, contributing to numerous documentaries about that tragic day.
She also crusaded against Oklahoma’s death penalty. She spoke out in 2015 to save the life of death row inmate, Richard Glossip.
Jannie wrote a letter to Glossip, saying that a voice from beyond told her there had been “Enough Killings,” and that she lamented the execution of Tim McVeigh.
“What I’m trying to say is that even though Tim was guilty killing him was wrong, and with you I feel that if there’s any possibility that you are innocent, you should have the chance to prove it to everyone. And be let out of prison and if you are proven guilty again, just sentence you to time served and give you the chance to show that you are a good man who has learned his lesson,” she said in the letter.
Jannie told Glossip that she was praying for him and that she would write then-Governor Mary Fallin and tell her that not everyone in the state believes in the death penalty.
She told Glossip to “keep praying and keep fighting,” and concluded her letter with “In God I Trust.”
Jannie’s visitation will be from 3-7 p.m. Friday, March 11. Her funeral service will be at 11 a.m., Saturday, March 12.