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Bombs are more powerful now. That's their appeal. They can turn a glass facade into razor rain, twist steel and concrete supports into knotted chunks, topple buildings. Someone puts more than a thousand pounds of explosives in a van, drives to the federal building in downtown Oklahoma City. Parks. Walks away.

The explosion tears an ugly U-shaped wound nine stories high, a grotesque bite mark in an oversized cake. Instantly, people die. The blast is felt for 30 miles.And that's just the beginning.

People living in New York and Chicago, Los Angeles and Miami, Denver and Dallas, Atlanta and Phoenix, know about the explosion almost as soon as people in Oklahoma City.

That's the appeal of a bomb - the strength of its shock waves in an electronic age.

Fanatics know we'll see pictures on TV while the smoke and flames still rise at the bomb site. They know we'll keep the television on and watch.

We'll see the injured on stretchers being moved from sidewalk to van, van to hospital. We'll follow the dazed and confused victims caught on tape wandering streets with soiled clothes and faces streaked with soot and blood.

We'll listen to the stories of survivors and of rescue workers. We'll take note of the body count.

We'll look through the eyes of the television camera at a street covered with bricks and glass and shredded tree branches.

Everything a mess and out of place. Upside-down cars, smoldering fires.

We'll hear reporters tell the grim story of the day-care center in the federal building and the children who died there.

What person could park a car loaded with death at the doorstep of babies?

The bombing occurred on the second anniversary of the attack on the cult compound outside Waco, Texas. Some wonder, does that have something to do with it? Or could it be the work of Islamic extremists, as others suggest?

Or is there another explanation?

As if it's actually possible to explain such a thing.

A rescue worker who said he'd been sifting through the rubble near the bodies of children was surrounded by reporters.

"Would you tell us what you saw?" he was asked.

"I'd prefer not to answer that," he said.

Where are you going now?

"I just want to go home," he said, "and hug my kids."

It's what I felt, too. It's what you felt. It's what everyone all over the country felt. All at once. Anger and fear and relief.

A bomb in Oklahoma City isn't like a bomb in Beirut. Or even a bomb in New York. A bomb in Oklahoma City is a bomb that could go off anywhere, which is a way of spreading fear everywhere.

Which is the appeal of bombs.

A bomb in Oklahoma City causes parents in Phoenix and Dallas and Denver and Philadelphia to rush home and hug their kids.

A bomb gets the kind of unrelenting news coverage that bombers most desire. We can't deny it.

It stops us in our tracks. Scares us. Revolts us. Fascinates us. It causes us to drop what we're doing and think about what was done to the innocent victims.

It causes newspaper writers all over America to put aside what they were working on and put down on paper something about the sorrow and fury that wells up each time the terrible pictures appear on television.

Not because doing so plays into the hands of terrorists. But because to do otherwise would dishonor the dead.