The 1990s were a time of rapid change in America. New laws allowed more immigrants to enter the country. Between 1950 and 2000, more than 13 million people came from Asia and Central America and Hispanic-Americans became the fastest growing minority group.
At the same time, family dynamics were changing as more families were headed by single parents or gay/lesbian parents. Gays were gaining a more prominent voice. At the same time, organized religion was losing its influence.
Some Americans felt scared and threatened by these changes. A few tried to use violence to express their frustration or make change. Americans were shocked and saddened by violent acts committed by other Americans.
- Militant groups formed. These groups were usually white conservatives. They sometimes gathered weapons and formed armies. Many militants were distrustful of the government.
- One group was the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas. This religious group, led by David Koresh, gathered together to prepare for the end of the world. When federal agents tried to search their compound for illegal weapons, cult members shot and killed four agents. The ensuing stand-off lasted for 51 days and ended when FBI agents tried to use tear gas to enter the compound. The Branch Davidians set the building on fire. 75 cult members died in the fire, including 25 children.
- In April, 1995, Timothy McVeigh used a truck filled with explosives to blow up a federal office building in Oklahoma City. McVeigh, a Gulf War veteran thought the government was abusing its power. He hoped that the attack would motivate other people to join his cause. His desire to start a revolt failed but 168 people, including 19 children, died in the attack. McVeigh was executed in 2001. His partner, Terry Nichols, was sentenced to life in prison.
- On March 24, 1998, two boys opened fire on students at their middle school in Arkansas. A year later, on April 20, 1999, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris attached their classmates at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. They killed 13 people before shooting themselves. They carried out their attack on Adolf Hitler’s birthday.
- Harvard graduate, Ted Kaczynski, believed that technology was destroying the human race. He sent homemade bombs to airlines and universities from 1978 to 1995. His bombs killed three people. Twenty-three were injured. The FBI spent more than $50 million trying to capture the elusive Kaczynski. Authorities finally found him living in a shack in western Montana after a tip from his brother.
- Family dynamic: a family’s organization or makeup
- Revolt: an organized rebellion against government
- Elusive: mysterious, difficult to catch
Visit 60 Minutes to learn more about the Columbine shootings.
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