There are a few things on which I hesitate to give an opinion, unless I am asked. This is one of them. Remember, dear Friend, you asked.

It was “meet around the flagpole” day, in the latter part of September 2001. Of course, earlier that month the most violent crime many of us had ever known had taken the lives of thousands. A group of brokenhearted city employees, myself included, gathered around the City Hall flagpole to pray for our country, and it was decided we would each share a prayer. When it was my turn, this came out of my heart and therefore my mouth, “Father, be with us. Help us to be strong, to forgive, and to heal. Be with those who did this, and give them whatever mercy you can.” Half of those in the circle never spoke to me again.

The radio newscaster kept breaking in, the day Timothy McVeigh was to be executed. As the execution drew near, we had a minute-to-minute update on what was being done, how, and why. And though I believe the sentence was just, when they announced he was dead, I sat down in the living room floor and cried for the man, whose victims I had shed tears for six years earlier.

I am not against the death penalty, but it is not a deterrent to violent crime. If it were, there would be very little violent crime in my great state of Texas. But it should be used sparingly and carefully and only in cases when it’s truly not safe for society to allow the perpetrator to live. And those who commit violent crimes must be punished, but where it is possible they must also be treated. Where it is possible, what is broken must be repaired.

I prayed for those who flew the planes and cried for Timothy, because they were someone’s brother, someone’s father, someone’s husband, and someone’s child, and because they were human beings.