The Ashes of Waco: An Investigation
© 1995 Dick Reavis
What happened at Waco? Dick Reavis had an itch to find out, and since no one else at his alternative newspaper was curious, he volunteered as man on the ground to investigate. Getting close wasn’t easy: during the fifty-one day siege, the ATF and FBI kept journalists at a distance, and their scissor job with the phone lines restricted communication in and out of the surrounded center. Inside the center were nearly a hundred members of the Branch Davidians, a splinter sect of the Seventh-Day Adventists, expecting the apocalypse and living in the belief that their leader David Koresh was chosen as the next messiah, meant to reveal God’s word to the world. What Reavis found was a gung-ho mob of bureaucrats and gunmen, constantly getting in one another’s way and approaching a situation that demanded delicacy with all the tact of a bull in a china shop.
The Ashes of Waco is well-done, drawing on extensive interviews with Federal agents, Waco residents (the centers’ neighbors), and Davidian survivors. Reavis conveys a good sense of what life was like inside the community, including maps of the connected buildings. He also looks beyond the front lines to consider how neighbors reacted to the showdown, including one radio host who — after realizing the center’s residents were listening to his show — had them move a dish mounted on their roof in response to questions, a la Christopher Pike in “The Menagerie”, in Star Trek. Although obviously appalled by the actions of the ATF and FBI, they are not villainized, All told, this is as even-handed and thorough an account one could hope for, written so soon after the debacle.