This Thursday marks the anniversary of the end of a 51-day siege just outside of Waco in 1993. The FBI, ATF, and other law enforcement began using tear gas, with the intention of rooting out the religious group called the Branch Davidians and arresting their leader, David Koresh. A fire broke out in the compound and 76 of the Branch Davidians died in the resulting blaze, including children. That siege branded Waco, but 25 years later the face of the city is changing and coming to grips with its past.
I moved to Waco two years ago, but I hadn’t been out to the Branch Davidian compound, Mt Carmel, until a couple of weeks ago. It’s about 13 miles outside of the city. Off a gravel road, a metal gate reading “Private Property” greets visitors, but the gate is left open. After I got out and walked around I found there’s a new chapel way back on the property. The place honestly doesn’t look like anything special. Some mobile homes scattered around the clean-cut acreage. There’s a stone memorial covered with the names of people who died in the fire that destroyed the compound. Beyond that, you could easily forget what happened on this land 25 years ago.