Sunday, January 29, 2012

Boom Goes the Dynamite

Fourteen years ago today, at 7:33 AM on the morning of January 29th 1998, Robert D. “Sandy” Sanderson (a 35-year-old off-duty Birmingham Police officer) was helping the morning nurse open the New Woman, All Women Health Care Clinic when a bomb went off killing him and critically mutilating the 41-year-old Emily Lyons. The bomb consisted of a few sticks of dynamite with nails taped to them. The nails were added in the hopes that they would become red-hot projectiles that would rip to shreds any human tissue they collided with. Unfortunately for Sandy and Emily the design worked as planned.

Lisa Hermes, who was also arriving for work at the clinic, was a minute late for the blast. She arrived to find her co-workers lying in pools of blood and glass. Emily’s face and legs had been mangled by the blast; her belly was riddled with bits of nail. Emily would spend most of the next day in surgery in a valiant, and successful, attempt to save her life.

Sandy’s body was so severely mangled that it was obvious he was dead despite any autonomic twitching that may have been occurring. His home was across the street from the Women’s clinic where he moonlighted, and now lay dead. The explosion brought Sandy’s wife out of their apartment to see what was happening. Lisa, wanting to spare her the image of her dead husband’s mangled and twitching corpse yelled at her: “Don’t come across!”.

At least one person was running away from the carnage. A man running away from the scene was observed to pull a wig off his head, and stuff it into a blue bag. He then jumped into a grey 1989 Nisan pickup truck, and speed away. The observer even jotted down the license plate number on the truck. That man was later identified as Eric Robert Rudolf.

For the next several hours the surrounding area (including some dorms for University of Alabama at Birmingham) was evacuated. The fear was that there would be another bomb. No second bomb was found.

The fear of a second bomb was well founded. A little over a year earlier, at 9AM on January 16th 1997, another of Eric’s bombs went off near a Women’s clinic in Sandy Springs Georgia (an Atlanta suburb). Shortly after the first bomb a second bomb placed near where ambulance and fire-fighters might park went off; it injured six more people.

A few weeks after the Sandy Springs bomb, at 10PM on February 21st 1997, a bomb went off near a crowd of almost 150 people outside The Otherside Lounge off Piedmont Rd in Atlanta. The area around the club was cordoned off, and a second bomb was found and safely removed.

On the morning of February 24th 1997 the FBI received a handwritten letter from “The Army of God” which warned that there would be more bombings of women’s clinics and lesbian bars. The note also vowed to bring the violence to “supporters”.

“A Pro-Lifer who is not an active, although maybe troublesome, member of a Christian Faith Community has cut him or herself off from the Church, and therefore, from Christ.” – Army of God Manual

The existence of The Army of God had been known since 1982. Various members had kidnapped, blown up, and harassed abortion providers and those that they thought supported them. The AOG still exists, it has a website, it distributes an AOG manual, and it continues to bomb Women’s clinics. On January 1st 2012 a Women’s clinic in Florida was gutted by AOG members in a Molotov cocktail attack.

Rudolf was identified as a suspect in some of his bombings on Valentine’s day 1998; he would be identified as a suspect in more before 1998 drew to a close. He was put on the FBI’s most wanted list, and went into hiding. AOG members managed to keep him hidden till May 31st 2003.

While Eric was in hiding two country music songs were written about him, and thousands of “Run Rudolph Run” T-Shirts were printed. Many Christians openly described Eric as a Hero.

The people who helped “Rudolph Run” were seen as godly martyrs by their friends and family. No-one who harbored or assisted Eric has been convicted. In one famous incident Eric’s brother videotaped himself (on March 7th 1998) purposely cutting off his own arm with an electric saw. He sent the videotape to local news outlets saying the self mutilation would “send a message to the FBI and the media.”.

Eric avoided the death penalty, and now sits in prison penning long tirades against the evils of society, and the need to cure them for Jesus. Eric’s supporters publish his rants on the internet. Many of his tirades include misogynist attacks against women.

“The family’s greatest enemy in the West for the last hundred years has gone under the name, ‘feminism.’ Feminism slowly introduced the seeds of revolt within the family and turned hearth and home into a battle field.” – Eric Robert Rudolf

There is a great amount of parallelism between Eric’s violent ramblings and the “Protect the Family” verbiage of social conservatives.

Eric became a rabid Christian when his mother moved the family (with teenage Eric) to the Church of Israel compound in 1984; a little over a decade before Eric began bombing. Eric self-identifies as a Roman Catholic, but the Church of Israel is an offshoot of the Temple Lot fringe of the Later-Day-Saints (Mormon) church. The “Temple Lot” referenced in the name is the spot in Independence Missouri that Joseph Smith dedicated to building the first LDS temple (and laid a cornerstone in 1831), and where all Mormons will gather at the last of the latter days. The Temple Lot group owns the exact 2.5 acres of real-estate which is the future temple’s lot.

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