The Ashes of Waco website Portal page to the digital collection. Includes a transcribed interview with author Dick J. Reavis, and information about the author, the book, the papers, the grant, the digital collection and the Southwestern Writers Collection.
Memorializing Mount Carmel Center in Waco, Texas Excellent site for photos and descriptions of the Mount Carmel property over the past eight years. Also includes photos of the Mount Carmel building model created by the author of the site, and links to other resources.
Waco Siege entry from Wikipedia Information from various contributors on the raid, including its prelude and aftermath, as well as references and a bibliography.
Waco: A New Revelation 1999 documentary on the incident, which uncovers new evidence. Website includes a link to the Danforth Report. You can watch the entire documentary on the Google videos site (video.google.com).
Waco: Rules of Engagement Probably the most famous and successful of Waco-related documentaries. You can order it from this site or rent/buy it from various sources.
Waco: The Inside Story Website for PBS' Frontline program, with a lot of good resources, including pictures, audio clips, official documents, and a bibliography.
All the audio files currently in the digital collection now play directly in the window, thanks to Todd Peters, who embedded the audio player, and Alan Schaefer, who moved the audio files and updated the metadata.
This works a little differently than the streaming video, which relies on whatever media player you have on your hard drive to play. But both the audio and video files work similarly now, and much more conveniently by not downloading to your hard drive before playing. You can play the file immediately, read the metadata as you watch/listen, and skip around the file at will.
So, we currently have the following audio files available online. Hold your mouse over the link for a brief description, and click on the link to go directly to the record.
As I have help, more audio (and video) files will be added to the digital collection, and I will keep the blog informed when new files are added. However, I may be shifting my focus for the next two months or so, to other aspects of the project, or to other projects altogether.
The twenty videos currently in the digital collection have been moved to our streaming server, meaning they are now accessible without having to download them to your hard drive. Here's what we have so far:
RV022 - failure analysis of final assault on Mt. Carmel - http://cdm15042.contentdm.oclc.org/u?/p9010coll4,66
RV026 - flyover footage of Mt. Carmel - http://cdm15042.contentdm.oclc.org/u?/p9010coll4,69
RV028 (two parts) - Bob Kendrick interview by Texas Rangers - http://cdm15042.contentdm.oclc.org/u?/p9010coll4,70
RV078 - home video interviews with children and David Thibodeau during the raid - http://cdm15042.contentdm.oclc.org/u?/p9010coll4,123
RV075 - "smuggled BATF tape" - footage of agents around Mt. Carmel and of Mt. Carmel burning - http://cdm15042.contentdm.oclc.org/u?/p9010coll4,120
I have double checked to make sure these all work, but by all means, please inform me if any do not play on your computer. Next, I'm going to have a student worker here start digitizing more videos (we have about 75 total), and a graduate assistant start converting/moving our mp3 audio files to our streaming server as well. Stay tuned!
Funny what can happen in a couple weeks. In late September I was corresponding with Matthew Wittmer, an artist and librarian living in Los Angeles, whom I've gotten to know well over the past year because of this project, and mentioned in passing that he should donate his model of Mt. Carmel to us. Turns out, it currently didn't have a home (beyond his closet), and he was willing to consider it. He had thought about Baylor's The Texas Collection in the past, but they have a policy against acquiring artwork. He said he hadn't even thought about donating it to us before, since we're a writers' collection.
But, as various acquisition efforts, including the Lee Hancock Collection, have shown, Waco has taken on a life of its own around here. I ran the idea by our curators and got the green light. Then, this past Monday morning I received an e-mail from Matthew, saying his parents were visiting him in L.A. and could drive across I-10 on their way to Houston and deliver the model (in three specially-made crates) free of charge. Next thing I knew, they were at my doorstep with the crates!
"Through developing observational drawings from video footage and photos of the complex, I constructed a model of the building to better understand the layout and function it provided the community, which is the model pictured in the photos on this web page. I also designed it to serve as a memorial to those who lost their lives during the events of 1993. The model was eventually installed on the Mt. Carmel property where a Visitor’s Center Museum was created and in operation between 1998 and 2006. The Visitor's Center Museum was managed by the survivors and a local supporter up until March of 2006. During that time it exhibited artifacts from the building, surviving photos of the life at the center prior to the siege, donated photos from family and friends of residents who belonged to the community, and defense exhibit photographs of the property and events/agents present throughout the siege. Tens of thousands of people traveling through the area have visited the property since 1993 and continue to visit to this day. My model served the survivors as a historical aid on the property from December of 2000 to September of 2006, much to the thanks of Clive and Edna Doyle who lived on the property at the time (Edna passed away in the summer of 2001) and expressed their desire for a model in their center. A mutual friend, Rollin, graciously helped in coordinating the installation process."
We're very excited Matthew has trusted us with his artistic and accurate rendering of Mt. Carmel, especially since the model has that connection to the visitor's center there. Also, in the Reavis Papers there is a postcard that Matthew made with a picture of the model on it, as well as a copy of line etchings of the model. You can view both of those in the digital collection. And Matt said he has old correspondence from Reavis, who initially gave Matt Clive's contact information. See, it all ties together!
On Sunday, April 19, Kurt and I drove to Waco to attend the annual memorial service led by Mt. Carmel survivor Clive Doyle. Starting in 1995, until 2005, I think, a service has been held on 4/19 at the Mt. Carmel site (a 1994 service was held in June). After Clive was pushed off the property by Charles Pace in early 2006, Clive has kept the 4/19 services for survivors and their friends and acquaintances going off-site in Waco. He has organized and led almost every one of these gatherings, I believe. He also has kept people up-to-date through the years with the Mt. Carmel Survivors Newsletter.
This year, the 16th Annual Mt. Carmel Survivors' Memorial was held in the small conference room of the Country Inn & Suites along IH-35 in Waco. From the look of the photos, I'd say around twenty-two people were in attendance. Kurt and I brought an audio recorder and took a few photos as well. We may be including the recording of the whole service in the online exhibit, but I wanted to share a portion of it here in the meantime.
Clive spoke for the first twenty minutes or so and that's what I want to highlight here, because he gives a thorough (and sometimes emotional) account of what all has happened in the past year especially, and in the years since April 19, 1993 generally. He discusses, most notably, the passing of David Koresh's father last June, Jaime Castillo last December, and Koresh's mother Bonnie in January.
Later in the service individuals got up to share their thoughts with the group, and at noon, as he does every year (since that was about the time the 4/19 fire started), Clive movingly read the names of those who died on February 28 and April 19, 1993. Here is one of the photos I took, featuring Matthew Wittmer speaking and Clive Doyle looking on. Matthew is a good friend of and advocate for the Mt. Carmel survivors, and he's been incredibly helpful to me with this project. You might recognize him from a previous photo in this blog.
At the end of last year, Joel visited Dick Reavis, the author of The Ashes of Waco, at his home in North Carolina. Together they recorded an interview that lasted for several hours. A complete transcript will be available when our website goes up, and we will post excerpts here from time to time. In this installment, Reavis describes how he met Branch Davidians after the siege and how he came to write the book:
DR: After it burned, you could walk on the site. I was there within a week afterwards. My wife and I walked around it.
JM: After the Texas Rangers had done their investigation?
DR: I say within a week. It seems to me it was. At some point, it was put off limits for sanitary reasons, but there was a gap.
JM: Cause people were taking souvenirs?
DR: Yeah, people were doing that. My wife and I walked the grounds. You have to understand, she is a South American. We were walking through all this charred stuff. I’m trying to think why I was down there. I think I know, but anyway. I said, “What do you think of this?” I didn’t know what to think of it. She said, “I never thought I would get a chance to see what your country did to the Indians.” And I thought, “What the heck is this? What do the Indians got to do with this?” And she said, “The Indians had a different religion. They had different marriage customs. And they had guns. So, you wiped them out.” And I thought, “Oh my gosh! Revelation to me.” And I’ll tell you why I was down there. After this place burned, I looked for two or three days for the stories that would tell me the other side of the story, and I didn’t see a one. Meaning, the press didn’t interview the people who came out of jail. And I thought, “That ain’t right.” And then I got a call. I’m pretty sure it was from Jim Pace at Soldier of Fortune, who told me that all of the people who had gotten out of jail and all of the other assorted Koresh followers who had never been put in, or whatever, and the children, were all in one hotel in Waco. He called and told me that. And I said, “Well Jesus, they’ve been wanting me to do a story about this and I’ve been refusing cause I couldn’t get the other side.” Well I went to my editor and I said, “Let me check into that hotel for a week.” And it was probably at the end of that week that I brought my wife to Mt. Carmel. I went down there for a week or so… a week or ten days. Checked into the hotel. It was pretty obvious who the Koresh followers were. I’d seen some of them on TV as they were arrested. And they wouldn’t talk to me. And I said what am I going to do -- this happens to reporters. And I said: I’m gonna sit here in the lobby and see what I can learn. Sitting in the lobby, I heard one of them, Ruth Riddle, call her insurance company to file a claim on her car and they said, “What happened to your car?” Tanks ran over it. “Do you have a title?” No. It burned up in the fire. And I saw they didn’t have cars anymore. That’s why she was making the call. Taxis were showing up. Well, I had a car. I said, “If I just sit here in this lobby long enough, somebody’s gonna need a ride. And on the second or third day, somebody did. And the next thing you know, I was taxi service for the survivors. I didn’t charge them nothing. And while I drove them places, I asked them questions. They couldn’t refuse. Three or four days of that, and I had made friends with them.
JM: Did you tell them you were a reporter?
DR: Oh yeah. I told them I was a reporter. When I say they’re not talking, they might have talked to me if I had said I’m a member of the Seventh Day Adventist church at Podunk, Texas. But I told them up front I was a reporter. So they wouldn’t talk to me until they needed a ride. So that’s how I began to get into the story, was a taxi guy to them. Little by little, they’d start inviting me to lunch and stuff. There was a restaurant where they all went, cause they could eat cheap. One day at the restaurant, I said, “Look, ya’ll have seen me smoking and stuff and nobody yet has asked me when I’m gonna accept Jesus as my lord and savior. What kind of religious group are you?” And they said, “We don’t do those kind of things.” And I said, “Why not?” “Because it would take us more than 15 minutes to explain our religion.” Well I decided as long as 15 minutes never came, I’d be willing to talk to them and I began to hear things from them that contrasted greatly from what I had read in the press. And some of them were black and I began to think, “There’s a story here.” I went to my editor and I said, “Look. This is like the Kennedy assassination. It’s gonna take a year after it happens to figure out what happened. Put me on it.” He said talk to Lacey. Lacey said no. Lacey had to attend a conference of alternative weeklies in Austin and I went down there. I said, “Look. You gotta let me spend at least six months figuring out what happened.” And he said no, again. I mean, he said it to my face. And I said, “Why not?” And he said it’s not a Dallas story. And I said yeah well neither was the Kennedy assassination. And besides, in Dallas at that time, there was a great movement of gun rights, patriot, constitutionalism, militia people. They held monthly meetings at which six and eight hundred people showed up. And I had readers. Everything I had written about Waco, we got letters from. So it was a hot topic, just inside of Dallas, and then nationally it seemed to me of some import. He told me no and I said, “I’m going to have to write a book about this to get to the bottom of it. And if I write the book, I’m gonna have to quit my job.” So I wrote a letter to my agent, proposing a book. When I got the contract, I quit my job.
Next we have the opening minutes of a video made by Failure Analysis Associates and commissioned by the National Rifle Associatation. The tape uses computer models to take the viewer through the various gas attacks that occurred on April 19. The physical origins and development of the fire are also covered, as well as the causes of death and distribution within the building of those who perished that day. Click on the link below.
Here is an excerpt from a tape that was sent out of Mt. Carmel during the siege. In this clip, Steve Schneider interviews several of the girls about how they were getting along during the ordeal. To view, click the link at the end of this posting.
Multiple tapes were sent out to the FBI over the course of the standoff. Dick Reavis, in The Ashes of Waco, has this to say:
Whatever disagreements one might have with the residents of Mt. Carmel, the film humanizes its subjects. In their post-April 19 investigation of the Waco affair, Justice Department investigators reported: "The negotiator's log shows that when the tape was reviewed there was concern that if the tape was released to the media, Koresh would gain much sympathy." Though the document was news, and would have been ideal for television, it wouldn't have served the agency's public relations goals. Instead of presenting it to the press, the Bureau sat on the videotape[s]. (pp. 228-29)
The girls seen here are, in order of appearance, Lisa Martin (13), Audrey Martinez (13), Rachel Sylvia (13), Abigail Martinez (11), and Sheila Martin (15). All five of them perished on April 19th.
Shortly after the siege began, all communication between Mt. Carmel and the outside world was cut off. A direct line was installed between the building and FBI negotiators, but the besieged were denied contact with anyone else. Figuring reporters' cameras might be able to photograph signs (reporters were relegated to an area about two miles away from the building), the Branch Davidians painted messages on bed sheets and hung them out the window. Here are two examples:
After the siege began, government agents began a psychological campaign aimed at convincing those inside the Mt. Carmel building to surrender. They also cleared a large area around the edifice, and this meant the destruction (by tanks and gunfire) or disappearance of several of the vehicles owned by the residents. This is one important area of controversy.
This photo shows an agent posing on a captured Branch Davidian motorcycle. Note the painting on the bike's gas tank, which depicts a six-winged guitar-playing long-tailed seraph and the words 'Rock 'n' Roll'. (I believe that the Branch Davidian flag is illustrated with a six-winged dragon or serpent.)
Here we present a few newly-scanned items of interest.
Firstly, three fake postage stamps, creators unknown (if anyone out there knows who made these, please sing out!). It's likely that the stamps were produced by an underground anti-government constitutionalist group who actually used them to send mail. It is impossible to say how many letters posted with stamps such as these made it through the postal system.
Next we have a promotional postcard for the controversial documentary "Waco: The Big Lie":
Stay tuned for more scans through next week. We will be closed for the end-of-year break for two weeks following. We welcome your questions and comments. Please know that we are interested in presenting all facets we can surrounding this story but that we refrain from drawing any conclusions publicly or producing editorial statements, no matter what our private opinions or understandings may be. 'Til next time!