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Freedom to Forgive: 25 Years After OKC Bombing (ep. 246)

Jeanne Bishop

John O’Leary welcomes Jeanne Bishop to the Live Inspired Podcast to share the astonishing forgiveness in her journey + an unlikely friendship formed from the OKC bombing.

My friends, the coronavirus pandemic is affecting each of in some way. I urge you, Live Inspired community, to keep you + your loved ones happy + healthy. I want today’s episode to be that reprieve, instill some sense of normalcy and provide positivity + hope in this uncertain time.

Nearly 25 years ago, many of us were left searching for healing + hope after the Oklahoma City bombing – the deadliest domestic act of terrorism in our country’s history. Two of those mired in darkness were Bud Welch, the father of victim Julie Welch, and Bill McVeigh, the father of the killer, Timothy McVeigh.

Before learning about the astonishing forgiveness that led to an extraordinary friendship between Bud + Bill, Jeanne Bishop shares her own transformative journey to reconciliation. Jeanne,  author + law reform advocate, details what led to finding forgiveness with the murderer of her sister + brother-in-law.

Today’s emotionally powerful episode will inspire you to see the hope, freedom + joy that comes from forgiveness + reconciliation.

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Jeanne’s Story

  • April 7, 1990: “I’ll see you tomorrow,” were the last words Jeanne said to her younger sister Nancy before she was tragically murdered along with her husband + unborn child.
  • Love is stronger than death. In Nancy’s final moments, she drug herself towards her husband, using her own blood to write “Love You” which gives Jeanne peace, knowing that she died in love.
  • Hating someone else is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. Wanting Nancy’s memory to be life-saving + life-giving, Jeanne forgave the killer in order to free herself.
  • After 22 years, Jeanne wrote the killer a letter expressing her forgiveness + offering to visit him in prison. He wrote back sharing his remorse + showing how he grasped the enormity of his crimes, giving Jeanne justice.
  • From murderer to friend: Jeanne has formed a bond with her family’s killer, having hope + expectation that he passes along every bit of good he can do whether he’s in prison the rest of his life or not.
  • “The more I get to know them from you, the worse I feel about what I did.” – Nancy’s killer to Jeanne.

Bill McVeigh + Bud Welch’s Story:

  • April 19, 1995: A truck bomb placed by Timothy McVeigh exploded outside Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people including 23-year-old Julie Welch, making it the deadliest domestic terror attack in US history.
  • Sister Roz, a Catholic nun who councils prisoners at the infamous Attica Prison, introduced Bud Welch (Julie’s father) to Bill McVeigh (Timothy’s father).
  • Realizing the hate Bud harbored for Timothy was not healing him, he sought to break the cycle of retaliation, revenge and bloodshed.
  • “Vengeance begets vengeance; hate breeds more hate. Reconciliation is altogether different; it changes us and changes the world, one human heart at a time.”
  • “We will only defeat evil with the amazing, forgiving reconciling love of God.”
  • The Survivor Tree: Julie would park under the only tree that would provide relief from the sweltering Oklahoma summers + it survived the attack. Bud sees that tree as a living symbol of Julie. Learn more about the tree here.
  • Do you cry? Not feeling that he deserved to cry over the loss of his son, Bill finally felt free to cry after Bud acknowledged his son’s humanity.
  • “There is hope. There is light. You don’t have to be mired in darkness. You don’t have to be pinned under a rock of defeat, hate, anger + disappointment. God wants to lift you into a life of freedom + joy.”
  • Get a copy of Jeanne Bishop’s book Grace from the Rubble.
  • Get a copy of Jeanne Bishop’s book Change of Heart.


1. What is the best book you’ve ever read? The Return of the Prodigal Son by Henri Nouwen.

2. What is a characteristic or trait that you possessed as a child that you wish you still exhibited today? I used to see stories in my head, write poetry, make up songs, see magic in the forest.

3. Your house is on fire, all living things and people are out. You have the opportunity to run in and grab one item. What would it be? Nancy’s cross. She had a beautiful gold cross on a single gold chain that laid against her heart as it stopped beating.

4. You are sitting on a bench overlooking a gorgeous beach. You have the opportunity to have a long conversation with anyone living or dead. Who would it be? My grandfathers. They had so much wisdom and I was too little to know it.

5. What is the best advice you’ve ever received? Pastor John Boyle asked me, “What are you waiting for?”

6. What advice would you give your 20-year-old self? Listen to the still, small voice of God before it has to become a megaphone.

7. It’s been said that all great people can have their lives summed up in one sentence. How do you want yours to read?  Give your life away.

To help combat fear, isolation and other uncertainty around coronavirus, I created a 21-day challenge to inspire our community to focus on what they can control and to remain ferociously optimistic that their best remains ahead. Sign up for the IN AWE 21-Day Challenge here.


Pre-order your copy of IN AWE today to receive access to fun, interactive bonus features emailed to you in the lead-up to the book’s release! Visit ReadInAwe.com. 


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