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Netizens debate bomb verdict

As Timothy McVeigh is found guilty, Netizens head online with talk that is heartfelt and vicious, sympathetic and vindictive.

The talk was heartfelt and vicious, sympathetic and vindictive. It was also conspiratorial and patriotic, argumentative, and consoling.

In other words, it was pure Net--and, some might argue, a pure reflection of American society.

As jurors handed down the guilty verdict in the Timothy McVeigh bombing trial today, Netizens headed online where they could read news accounts, download transcripts, and discuss the verdict themselves. They wanted information, opinions, company--in short, an audience.

All had one thing in common, Net access, which meant access to the minds and words of millions of people across the globe.

Glenda Galebach, an Oklahoma City high school teacher, went to the ABC News site on America Online (AOL), which was holding a moderated chat following the verdict.

Galebach, whose classes include students who lost their parents in the horrific blast two years ago, has been following the news and reading trial transcripts at the KWTV Oklahoma TV news station site.

Today, after the verdict was announced, she needed to be with others. So she went online.

"I want to see what other people think," she said in an Instant Message interview as fellow AOL members discussed the verdict. Some called for McVeigh's life, others for explanations.

"I think this is a way to feel like you are connected to people, which doesn't happen watching TV or reading a newspaper," Galebach said. "I was at school in the library when it happened. And I was there this afternoon watching the verdict.

"One of my students who was in my class and in the library with me lost her mother and another girl in the same class. Her mother was working at the YMCA day care and is still not OK. They both graduated last week."

Nick Davis also went to the AOL chat site. He lived in Oklahoma City most of his life, including the day McVeigh blew up the federal building there. "I heard it and felt it," he said.

Today, he lives in Wichita, Kansas, and couldn't be in Oklahoma. But, in cyberspace, he could be with a community that cared.

AOL was far from the only service hosting chats. Chats took place across the Net, including Yahoo's chat site.

Like many others, Yahoo's was unmoderated and the conversation took many turns, alternating from people avoiding the topic altogether to heated arguments over McVeigh's guilt or innocence.

"McVeigh should not die anyway cuz there is no real evidence," one person said.

Another called for him to be tortured, in graphic detail.