Revisiting Waco and the Branch Davidian Tragedy
Twenty-five years ago, the deadliest standoff in US law enforcement history began on the outskirts of Waco, Texas. The confrontation between the Branch Davidians (an offshoot of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church) and the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) at the Davidians’ Mount Carmel Center lasted fifty-one days and took the lives of seventy-six people. When the standoff came to its fiery end on April 19, 1993 media reports were quick to label the Branch Davidians a “cult” and their leader David Koresh a “madman.” The name “Waco” became synonymous with the standoff in the public imagination, a connection that city officials have actively worked to shed.
The conflicting narratives that emerged about the standoff as well as the popularity of Mount Carmel as a tourist destination underscore the difficulty city officials faced in addressing their city’s negative association with what became known as the “Waco siege.” Using her own first-hand accounts of the site as well as archival research, Dawes examines the multiple perspectives of the siege and explores the ways in which Mount Carmel has become a dark tourist destination. She argues that dark tourism at Mount Carmel, like that at other dark sites, works to create a sense of empathy for the suffering of others.
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