Texas Wants to Know: What Happened 30 Years Ago in Waco?


Thirty years ago this week, a fire broke out at a compound occupied by an apocalyptic cult outside Waco. The blaze ended a weeks-long standoff between federal authorities and the Branch Davidians.

KRLD Morning News anchor Mike Rogers was a new reporter for the station in 1993 and could see Mount Carmel when the fire started.

“I said, ‘Does that look like smoke?’ And everybody turned and looked. And within a few seconds, it was like roaches scattering when you come in and turn on the light in the middle of the night,” Rogers said. “Just everyone taking off to their cars because it was obvious at that point, that is smoke, that is a fire, and this thing was about to come to a horrifying end.”

But how did it come to that? And why did KRLD become central to the story?

The leader of the Branch Davidians, David Koresh, turned out to be a longtime listener of KRLD and told law enforcement if his message was played on the station, he would surrender.

“We played it and, obviously, he didn’t come out at that point because he said that God had spoken to him and told him that instead of coming out, he needed to wait it out,” Rogers said. “And at that point, they all decided to wait it out and they locked the doors and the standoff began. Fifty-one days.”

Therapist Rachel Bernstein, who specializes in cults and hosts a weekly podcast about them called IndoctriNation, told host Baylee Friday that even 30 years later, she thinks these patterns will continue to repeat themselves.

“I think there will always be cults because born into this world will always be people like us who are open, who are wanting to learn, who are wanting to grow, who are a bit trusting because we have no reason not to be in a lot of situations and we’re going to be vulnerable,” she said. “And then there are people also simultaneously born into the world who feel totally entitled to take over someone else’s life.”

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