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Sterling Hall Remembered

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35 years ago Wednesday, a blast awakened many of us in the Madison area just before 4:00 a.m. Four men protesting the Vietnam War had detonated a massive truck bomb outside of the U-W's Sterling Hall, which housed the Army Mathematics Research Center.

The explosion killed one student, and if not for a twist of fate, could easily have killed the man you're about to meet.

"You know, it's one of those things I'll never know. You know, had I been here, would I have been killed? Chances are pretty good that I might have," says Steve Limbach, "the blast itself was just an incredibly violent concussion."

And Steve Limbach could easily have been caught in the middle of that blast that killed student Robert Fassnacht 35 years ago today.

"Close call? Very Close call."

Steve worked in Birge Hall, the building you see there just to the right of Sterling Hall.

Normally, Steve would have been in his lab during the explosion, or even heading home on his bike right past the spot where the truck bomb went off.

But as fate would have it, he left work early that morning, and heard the explosion at home a few blocks away.

"Being through that experience probably changed my personality there are a lot of things that I don't take for granted," says Steve.

When Steve returned to Birge Hall after the bombing, he found his lab had been riddled with shrapnel.

"I have a couple of pieces, I wish I had them with me, just a couple of small pieces of truck parts um from the blast from the blast, one of which might have gone through me, depending on if I was sitting at my desk or not. Every once in a while I throw one of those in my pocket if I'm having a bad time and it's just kind of a reminder, well, things could have been a lot different. I could maybe not be here," Steve explains.

Today, 35 years later dlowers mark the spot where Robert Fassnacht died. A memorial to a tragic day that, could have also been Steve Limbach's last.

A new exhibit at the State Historical Museum asks the question was the bombing, "Resistance or Terrorism."
Steve Limbach says he doesn't view the Sterling Hall Bombing as terrorism, the way we define it today. He says it was definitely an act of violence, that went against the principle of peaceful resistance,
But he believes the four men responsible for the bombing did not intend to harm anyone.


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