It was supposed to be Gary Kirby’s day off when the senior airman in the United States Air Force got a call from his first sergeant. The request: Come back to Tinker Air Force Base dressed in a pair of blue jeans, a white t-shirt and white socks.
Kirby, now a senior master sergeant, showed up at the headquarters building to find a big, blue Air Force bus. He climbed on board, where he found between 40 and 50 guys --- and all of them looked like him.
“It was almost as though there were clones of me that I didn’t know were taken and we were all being ushered off to some weird purpose,” Kirby said. “I had no idea what this was all about.”
But this wasn’t a scene from Star Trek. An official from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations told the men they were going to Oklahoma County to be in a police lineup with Oklahoma City bombing suspect Timothy McVeigh.
“In order to find members who fit that military sort of bearing that Timothy McVeigh had and his look, they had pinged all the surrounding military installations, looking for a gentleman who was between 5’11, 5’10”, 168 to 185 pounds, blond hair, blue eyes, crewcut,” Kirby said. “And as it happened, I fit that description neatly.
“Of course, hands started flying up. ‘We’re not going to get falsely identified for this and then not be home in time for dinner, right?’ He explained basically that they had no doubt as to who it was. They just wanted to allow some objectivity for the four witnesses that they had,” Kirby said.
The bus took Kirby and the other military men to the Oklahoma County Courthouse. They lined up against a wall, where lawyers chose a handful to serve in the lineup.
“And when they pointed at me they said yes,” Kirby said.
Kirby and six others went downstairs to a holding area outside the lineup room, where FBI agents and attorneys gave them specific instructions.
“Don’t look at him. Don’t talk to him. If he says something to you, don’t reply. Don’t touch him,” Kirby said. “Basically pretend he’s an invisible force.”
Kirby and the others were each given a blue cap and told to hold onto it until prompted to put it on.
“One of the witnesses did report seeing a gentleman with a blue cap on backwards,” Kirby said.
Gary Kirby was the fifth man in the lineup. McVeigh was moved around to different positions, so he wouldn’t be in the same spot for each witness. At different times, McVeigh stood right next to Kirby, once on his right and another time to his left.
“At one point where we were asked to put the hats on. I put my hat on with the bill forward. A voice came through the intercom there in the lineup room, ‘Number 5, turn your hat around.’ So I did that. He was standing next to me at the time, and it elicited a laugh out of him. Which for somebody who was in that sort of position I thought was really odd,” Kirby said.
“But he was human, which again in and of itself was rather odd because it’s not what I expected to see from someone who can do something so bad,” Kirby said.
It was odd to Kirby because McVeigh looked so ordinary, like just another guy he would see on the base. He didn’t match Kirby’s expectations for somebody who would commit a horrendous terrorist act. He says he expected somebody much more hard core.
“His demeanor was probably the oddest and probably the most troubling part of it. You or I, if we were in any kind of trouble, we would probably be sweating bullets but he was charismatic and very cool about it,” Kirby said.
It was that casual manner and being so nonchalant that disturbed Kirby the most.