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CNN: Special Investigations Unit
Death and Taxes: Joe Stack's Attack on the IRS
Aired April 17, 2010 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ABBIE BOUDREAU, CNN INVESTIGATIVE UNIT CORRESPONDENT (voice- over): A clear morning. A rogue pilot. A building billowing smoke.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the windows were blown. There's fire coming out.
BOUDREAU: And an angry manifesto left behind.
Here, in Austin, Texas, 53-year-old Joe Stack made a missile of his small plane, slamming it into an IRS office, a final expression of a simmering rage.
BOUDREAU (on camera): On the surface, Joe Stack seemed like a good guy - sound and perfectly sane. So what led this Regular Joe to become what some would call a domestic terrorist? What drove him to kill on February 18th?
RICK FURLEY, DRUMMER, BILLY ELI BAND: He's like the poster boy for chill.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Rick Furley was a band mate of Joe Stack. Stack played bass, and was the kind of guy you could count on.
FURLEY: Super professional. Always on time, always knew the bars.
BILLY ELI, FRONTMAN, BILLY ELI BAND: Three, four -
BOUDREAU: Billi Eli was the front man who brought Stack into the band. He says the Joe Stack who flew his plane into a building was not the same Joe Stack he knew.
BOUDREAU (on camera): Some people call him a domestic terrorist.
ELI: Well, some people do, and some people call him all kind of things, man. I called him a friend of mine and my bass player, you know?
I mean, I wasn't aware of any political agenda that he ever had.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Austin's a town known for big Texas hospitality, vibrant music, and a thriving technology community. Joe Stack came here to start over. Back in the '80s, Stack founded a small company in California and connected with a group of people obsessed with taking on the U.S. tax code. For Joe Stack, this was the beginning of decades struggling with the tax system.
J.J. MacNab is an expert on tax protesters.
J.J. MACNAB, INDEPENDENT PLANNER AND ANALYST: Their beef is somewhat varied, but in general they don't want to pay taxes and they come up with a variety of reasons how not to do that.
BOUDREAU: When Stack's marriage and business went bust in California, he moved to Austin. Here, he founded a software company, joined a band and got remarried.
On the outside, Stack seemed happy. But, beneath the surface, his life was far from it.
LISA ALEXANDER, IRS REVENUE OFFICER: There's all kind of people in the world and anything can happen any given day and anywhere.
BOUDREAU: Each day, after breakfast with her son, Lisa Alexander heads to work. February 18th was no different.
This single mom is a revenue officer for the IRS in Austin.
ALEXANDER: I tell the taxpayer we're out here to assist you, to work with you, with your delinquency with the Internal Revenue Service, because we know the economy is hurting but we still have a job to do.
BOUDREAU: That morning, Alexander settled into her routine here at the IRS offices.
ALEXANDER: Checked my mailbox and pranced around the office, and then I finally get situated.
BOUDREAU: Across town, it was also business as usual for glass repairer Robin DeHaven. He had already started his workday.
ROBIN DEHAVEN, GLASS REPAIRER: I was already at work. I'd already picked up my workload and I was just trying to go through my - my workload. I had a - a few tickets, windows to look at, doors to look at or windows to repair.
BOUDREAU: The Iraqi War vet headed out to his first job.
DEHAVEN: It was a nice pretty much day, clear. The traffic wasn't too bad at that point.
BOUDREAU: February 18th - for most people, just an ordinary day. But for Joe Stack, he'd reached his breaking point. Trouble at home, finances running low, and an audit by the IRS.
That morning, Stack finalized his 3,000-word manifesto.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you're reading this, you're no doubt asking yourself, why did this have to happen? The simple truth is that it is complicated and has been coming for a long time.
BOUDREAU: Stack had been writing for months. He railed against the government.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The monsters are the very ones making and enforcing the laws.
BOUDREAU: And he foreshadowed his fatal plans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Violence not only is the answer, it is the only answer.
BOUDREAU: Less than an hour later, as Lisa Alexander reviewed cases at the IRS, as Robin DeHaven headed down the highway, Joe Stack was taking off on a deadly mission.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): The Giddy Up Bar, Austin, Texas, a typical Saturday night for Billy Eli and his band.
ELI: Joe Stack was a bass player in my band for about two years and he was a good musician. He was a conscientious musician.
BOUDREAU: Joe Stack played with Billy Eli's band in the honky tonks and hole in the wall beer joints dotting Central Texas. He was the band member everyone could count on.
ELI: He was a meticulous kind of engineer head kind of guy. He loved - man, he loved things that you could do by the numbers.
He had a good sense of humor.
BOUDREAU (on camera): Was he ever angry? Was he depressed?
ELI: You know, I never saw him angry.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Band mate and drummer Rick Burley also remembered Stack as a laid-back kind of guy.
BURLEY: You want to sit down and have a beer with the guy.
We never saw him angry, we never saw him get flustered. He was always in a good mood.
BOUDREAU: During all the gigs the band played together, Stack never hinted at his problems with the IRS. ELI: I can honestly say the IRS never, ever came up in any conversation that we had. But, you know, I mean, we were - we were musicians and - and friends, and we talked about music.
BOUDREAU: Stack helped with the band's album.
BURLEY: The last time I - I really had any interaction with Joe was at our - he was producing the album "Amped Out". He did a great job. He made it real easy and we were able to go in and - and record our tracks in fairly record time.
BOUDREAU: He also wrote a song for another band, Last Straw, called "A Certain Kind of Magic". He played keyboard, sang background, and even came up with the album title, named, ironically, "Over the Edge".
Music was also a big part of Stack's life growing up.
PHIL DAY, CLASSMATE: We were band mates, we were friends and also in Glee Club together. We toured and sang and so forth.
So it was a - really a musical connection, I guess, between us.
BOUDREAU: Phil Day was the lead singer in the high school rock band called the Mythical Maze. Back then, Joe Stack was still playing bass. Growing up, Andrew Joseph Stack went by the name Andy.
DAY: I don't think he ever saw himself as a star. He didn't - it wasn't that type of personality.
You - you know, you can kind of tell the people that would love to be out in the limelight and - and be a - a - headlining a show somewhere. That wasn't Andy.
BOUDREAU: The school they attended together was the Milton Hershey School, a residential school for orphans in Hershey, Pennsylvania.
When Stack was a young boy, his father died of a heart attack. After his sudden death, Andy's mother, Ethel, was unable to care for her two oldest sons, Andy and Harry, so she enrolled them in the Milton Hershey School in 1963. Andy was just 7.
Then, another tragedy. Andy's mother died months later. It was suicide. Harry Stack told "The Austin American Statesman" she killed herself with a gun.
While his other siblings moved in with relatives, Andy and Harry stayed at Milton Hershey, where they became what classmates called lifers.
DAY: Some kids came in at kindergarten and went through the entire - until high school graduation, and those were the lifers.
BOUDREAU: Hershey classmate Michael Macchioni remembers the hardscrabble life of his fellow classmates. MICHAEL MACCHIONI, CLASSMATE: We were desperately poor and we had tragedy in our lives. One or both parents were dead. Some of the parents, you know, were killed in serious accidents or murders or any type of sundry ways of dying.
And, either way, it was tragedy because we were all young children.
BOUDREAU: Daily life at the school was regimented. Danny Caffer (ph) roomed with Andy during high school.
DANNY CAFFER (ph), CLASSMATE: We would get up about 5:45 every morning. We had chores to do and the house parents would inspect our daily chores, and we were on a merit system. You could get a demerit if your job wasn't done well.
MACCHIONI: Each of the homes would have their own dairy farm and we milked cows twice a day. And the only times we didn't milk the cows is when we were away on vacation.
BOUDREAU: Students were often teased when they ventured off campus.
DAY: I remember traveling to, you know, football games and so forth to other schools, and kids at other schools would taunt us because we were orphans.
We were at one school and we'd beat them pretty badly in - in the game and getting back onto the buses, there were a bunch of cheerleaders out there singing or chanting, we might have lost, but we're not sad, because we still have our mom and dad.
BOUDREAU: Throughout school, his classmates say Stack always seemed a little distant.
DAY: Even when I look back at photos of - of Andy and so forth, it didn't matter what was going on around him, it always looked like he was thinking about something else.
There was an intensity about him, always seemed to be in that world where you knew there was something happening, but he wouldn't vocalize what it was. You - you could sense maybe there was something bothering him, but he wasn't going to verbalize it. It was just something he dealt with.
MACCHIONI: He had an acerbic wit for sure. But, to myself and others who weren't close friends with him, you would say he was shy and reserved, even.
However, his friends report that once you got to know him, he was actually pretty friendly.
BOUDREAU: When Stack graduated in 1974, the Milton Hershey School gave him what they gave all their graduating students.
CAFFER: You were given a suitcase of clothes and $100. They kept $10 in case you had any outstanding phone calls or anything, and said, "See you."
BOUDREAU: But Stack struggled, finding his own way.
DAY: I think Andy struggled when he first came out of Milton Hershey and was trying to figure out what direction he wanted to go in. I think the first couple of years were really tough for him and then it took him a while to - to get on his feet after that, it seemed.
BOUDREAU: Stack attended Harrisburg Area Community College, but he struggled, barely making ends meet.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I was living on peanut butter and bread, or Ritz crackers when I could afford to splurge, for months at a time.
BOUDREAU: Stack would go on to find his future in California - a future that was far from bright.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My introduction to the real American nightmare starts back in the early '80s.
BOUDREAU: That nightmare when we come back.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Don Lemon at the CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. Time now for a look at your headlines.
President Barack Obama has scrapped plans to travel to Poland for the funeral of Polish president - of the Polish president because of the vast volcanic ash that could be over much of Europe right now. The White House announcement came about six hours before Mr. Obama was due to leave.
The volcanic ash has all but shut down flights in most of Europe since Thursday. Here's a look at the volcano from space, the ash cloud still growing right now.
Right now, it is affecting airports in about two dozen countries. No travel relief expected for at least another day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our flight was yesterday evening and - and it was canceled, and yesterday they told us that they were going to rebook us on a flight on Sunday, but then that got changed and they told us it's going to be Tuesday evening.
I mean, the - the spokesman from British Airways that we spoke to said it changes hour by hour, really, so nothing is confirmed until you actually even get on a flight, I don't think.
(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON: Also overseas, in Warsaw today, about 100,000 packed the main square for a memorial service. The nation is mourning President Lech Kaczinski, his wife and more than 90 others killed in a plane crash last weekend in Western Russia.
If you missed Friday's deadline to return your Census form, don't worry. You are not alone. Three in 10 Americans haven't sent the form back yet.
Despite an aggressive campaign by the Census Bureau, this year's return rate is about the same as 10 years ago. Census workers will soon start visiting the homes of people who haven't returned the forms.
Toyota has issued yet another recall, this time for 600,000 Sienna minivans. The Japanese automaker says the recall is necessary because of a problem with the spare tire cable.
Corrosion from road salt can cause the cable to snap, dropping the spare into the road, a danger for other drivers. Toyota says it is working on the solution to that problem.
Well, it dazzled stargazers across the Midwest just last week, but the shard of meteorite that made it to earth was tiny, about the size of a peanut shell, but it was there. The man who found the fragment said he heard it bounce off the roof of his shed in his backyard in Southern Wisconsin.
Scientists hope other fragments might be found since the meteorite might have exploded into thousands of pieces.
Now you're up to date.
I'm Don Lemon. A CNN SPECIAL INVESTIGATION, "Death and Taxes: Joe Stack's Attack on the IRS" continues right now.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): In the early '80s, Joe Stack found himself in Southern California, a hot bed of the anti-tax movement.
ANDRE HENSLEY, UNIVERSAL LIFE CHURCH: There were several groups in the Southern California area who realized that, you know, once a minister became ordained and started their own church, there were certain tax benefits for them.
BOUDREAU: Andre Hensley is the president of the Universal Life Church, a church founded in 1959 by this man, Kirby Hensley. He was Andre's father.
HENSLEY: Our whole goal is to help people with the freedom of religion, and if they want to start their own church, we want to help them to do that.
BOUDREAU: J.J. MacNab is a tax expert who's writing a book on tax protester schemes. MACNAB: My understanding is they have about 40,000 or 50,000 people set up home-based churches in which they said if you turn your home into a church, then you are tax-free.
BOUDREAU: And that's exactly what Joe Stack did. He began his own tax-exempt church.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some friends introduced me to a group of people who were having tax code readings and discussions, in particular zeroed in on a section relating to the wonderful exemptions that make institutions like the vulgar, corrupt Catholic Church so incredibly wealthy.
BOUDREAU: MacNab speculate Stack must have thought he was actually doing something heroic.
MACNAB: That he was being somewhat like the Founding Fathers, that he was protesting and - just like they did, and that he would be a hero and that others would learn from his heroic efforts and - and move on.
BOUDREAU: Although the IRS revoked his tax-exempt status from 1978 to 1985, the Universal Life Church challenged that ruling and today says it never advocated tax evasion.
HENSLEY: If you have a tax due and you feel that you, you know, have earned money, then you need to pay your taxes. Work within the system. It's there. That's the bottom line.
BOUDREAU: But the bottom line for other tax protesters was to push the system as far as they could.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, in the late '70s and early '80s, all the way up probably through the middle '90s, there was quite a bit of tax protest going on in the country in terms of people raising issues and litigation and those sorts of things.
BOUDREAU: This man says he's been a tax protester for more than three decades. He doesn't want us to show his face because he's fearful of what he says could be retribution by the IRS.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Most people think in our society that you're innocent until proven guilty. But when it comes to tax issues, you're guilty until you can prove that the IRS is wrong.
BOUDREAU: And during that time, Stack, according to documents obtained by the "Associated Press", did not pay taxes for 1981, '82 and '83. In his manifesto published on the internet, here's how he described part of his battle.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We carefully studied the law with the help of some of the best, high paid, experienced tax lawyers in the business, and then began to do exactly what the big boys were doing, except that we weren't stealing from our congregation or lying to the government about our massive profits in the name of God. MACNAB: It's not the IRS that makes the large churches tax exempt. It's Congress. The IRS simply collects the money. They don't write the rules, they don't - they don't pass the law.
BOUDREAU: That distinction apparently made little or no difference to Stack.
According to court documents he filed suit against the IRS in the fall of 1983. Five years later, he lost. According to the "Associated Press", he had to pay back taxes of $14,446, plus interest and penalties.
Here's what he wrote.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That little lesson in patriotism cost me $40,000 plus 10 years of my life and set my retirement plans back to zero.
BRIAN LEVIN, CENTER FOR THE STUDY OF HATE & EXTREMISM: This wasn't something that came out of nowhere. He - he has for a long time regarded the tax system as unfair and causing him unique and debilitating personal losses.
BOUDREAU: Brian Levin is a criminologist who specializes in analyzing acts of so-called Lone Wolf Violence. He says Joe Stack was influenced by the anti-tax movement.
LEVIN: He was the prototypical lone wolf. The more they go off alone, the more that anger festers and they're able to get caught in a web of a belief system, which then - when coupled with this emotional instability becomes a volatile and dangerous mix, and it's most likely to be directed against a symbolic target that they believe is at the root of their setbacks and pain.
And this is - this is payback. It is not just political, it is personal.
BOUDREAU: Joe Stack would remain in California in the late 1990s, where he continued to run afoul of the IRS.
He formed two software companies, and records show he failed to file corporate taxes on either. He began to funnel his anger and frustration, targeting the IRS.
LEVIN: This was not someone who is just going to go and hurt somebody randomly or just go after any government official. This was someone who wanted to declare war on the IRS and to have a movement continue after he was gone to do it as well.
BOUDREAU: Coming up, Joe Stack gets ready to go to war.
BOUDREAU: A quiet, tree-lined street, middle class America under the big Texas sky.
ALBERT HUTCHENS, NEIGHBOR: The neighbors are all very friendly and helpful people, just kind of middle America, I guess you'd say.
BOUDREAU: Albert Hutchens (ph) lived two houses down from Joe Stack. Like other neighbors, he believed this was the last place a rampage would be born.
HUTCHENS: It's just incredible. You know, you would never suspect something like this.
BOUDREAU: IRS employee Lisa Alexander was just returning to her job after a few days of field work. She was looking forward to a good day.
ALEXANDER: I didn't get any type of vibes or I didn't feel anything or -- nothing new. It was supposed to be an ordinary day.
BOUDREAU: Like Alexander, Robin DeHaven (ph), an Iraq war veteran, was just going through his daily routine as a window installer.
DEHAVEN: I was going to do a window repair, pretty simple job, I thought, in a normal day. I was just going to try to contact this woman and go change her window out.
BOUDREAU: An unsuspecting hero, an unwitting victim and a suicidal killer, all three on a collision course.
Joe Stack had harbored a grudge against the IRS for years, but in the months leading up to February 18th, he'd taken to his computer to write his manifesto.
BRIAN LEVIN, CRIMINOLOGIST: Joe Stack was someone who felt that his concerns were not listened to, and Joe Stack felt that the system was biased against him.
BOUDREAU: Stack's manifesto is a litany of grievances, a rant, but also a window into his thoughts as he spiraled downward.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "I find the process of writing it frustrating, tedious and probably pointless, especially given my gross inability to gracefully articulate my thoughts in light of the storm raging in my head."
BOUDREAU: And Stack ends with an ominous threat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: "Well, Mr. Big Brother, IRS man, let's try something different. Take my pound of flesh. Sleep well."
BOUDREAU: When he's done, Joe Stack signs, dates and posts his on-line screed, then leaves his computer for good.
(on camera): This is the house Joe Stack shared with his wife and stepdaughter in north Austin. On the evening of February 17th, his wife and stepdaughter fled to a hotel after Stack reportedly went ballistic over his problems with the IRS. This is what happened the next day. Around 9:15 AM, he set his house on fire.
(voice-over): Albert Hutchens was at home that morning.
HUTCHENS: My wife was watching TV, and we both heard a loud noise and we rushed out into the back yard to see what was going on. And we saw smoke and flames coming from the second floor window of the Stacks' house. And I ran back through the house and grabbed our cordless phone and ran to the front yard while I was dialing 911.
BOUDREAU: His manifesto posted, his house torched. And Stack? He was now gone.
(on camera): After he set his house on fire, he got in his car and set out on his real mission. He drove 20 miles north to an airport where he kept a single-engine plane.
(voice-over): This is where Stack would take his final ride.
(on camera): So according to the NTSB, Stack was cleared for takeoff at 9:44 AM. And looking back, his voice sounds eerily cool for a man who was about to do what he was about to do.
JOE STACK: Georgetown tower Dakota 28889 delta's ready for departure.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: '89 delta cleared for takeoff. What's your direction of flight, sir?
STACK: '89 delta southbound.
BOUDREAU: Stack flew southbound and climbed to an altitude of 4800 feet. Then he had one final conversation with air traffic control.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dakota '90 delta frequency, change approved southbound. See you later.
STACK: '89 delta, thanks for your help. Have a great day.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): My pilot on this day is Jerry White (ph). He was also flying February 18th, just ahead of Joe Stack.
(on camera): Do you remember that day? Did it look similar to...
JERRY WHITE, PILOT: Just like today. I flew over -- he was right behind me. And yes, I flew -- I was flying (INAUDIBLE)
BOUDREAU: So you saw him take off?
WHITE: Yes. Yes. Yes. He was right (INAUDIBLE)
BOUDREAU: Nothing out of ordinary?
WHITE: Nothing at all out of the ordinary. In fact, Hey, have a nice day, just another guy up there.
BOUDREAU: At 9:54 AM, Stack begins descending rapidly. He makes a turn to the west. Three minutes later, 9:57, he slips off the radar.
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Don Lemon at the CNN world headquarters in Atlanta. Time now for a look at your headlines. President Obama scrapped his plans to travel to Poland for the funeral of the Polish president because of a vast volcanic ash cloud over much of Europe. The White House announcement came about six hours before Mr. Obama was due to leave. The volcanic ash has all but shut down flights in most of Europe since Thursday. Take a look now at some of the volcano from space. Look at that, high in the air. The ash cloud is still growing. Right now, it is affecting airports in two dozen countries, and no travel relief expected for at least another day.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our flight was yesterday evening and it was canceled. And yesterday, they told us that they were going to re-book us on a flight on Sunday. But then that got changed, and they told us it's going to be Tuesday evening.
I mean, the spokesman from British Airways that we spoke to said it changes hour by hour, really, so nothing is confirmed until you actually even get on a flight, as I think.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: In Warsaw today, about 100,000 people packed the main square for a memorial service. The nation is mourning President Lech Kaczynski, his wife and more than 90 others, killed in a plane crash last weekend in western Russia.
If you missed Friday's deadline to return your Census form, don't worry. You're not alone. Three in ten Americans haven't send sent the form back yet. Despite an aggressive campaign by the Census Bureau, this year's return rate is about the same as 10 years ago. Census workers will soon start visiting the homes of people like you who haven't returned the form.
Toyota issued yet another recall, this time for 600,000 Sienna minivans. The Japanese auto maker says the recall is necessary because of a problem with the spare tire cable. Corrosion from road salt can cause the cable to snap, dropping the spare into the road, a danger for other drivers. Toyota says it's working on a solution to the problem.
You know, it dazzled stargazers all across the Midwest last week, but the shard of meteorite that made it to Earth was tiny, really about the size of a peanut shell. The man who found the fragment said he had heard it bounce off the roof of a shed in his back yard in southeastern Wisconsin. Scientists hope other fragments might be found, since the meteorite might have exploded into thousands of pieces. I'm Don Lemon. Our CNN special investigation, "Death and Taxes: Joe Stack's Attack on the IRS," it continues right now. See you at 10:00 PM Eastern.
DEHAVEN: (INAUDIBLE) going to be a normal day. I already knew what I was...
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Robin DeHaven was driving down the road on February 18th, like he is on this day with me. And that's when something he'd never seen caught his eye, something small flying much too close to the ground.
DEHAVEN: I looked on the horizon. I just saw a little white dot and I didn't know what it was. And I'm staring at it, like, Why is this? I realized it was plane, but it looked like a small plane. And I thought, Why -- I've never seen toy planes flying around here. What's it doing?
BOUDREAU: But DeHaven would soon realize it wasn't a toy, it was a real plane, Joe Stack's Piper Cherokee.
DEHAVEN: It was really low. It was kind of coming in at an angle. So it was acting a little erratically. I'm waiting to see, Is this going to keep going? Am I just going to see it fall out of the sky and stall or what? And then I saw him turn, and I thought, Well, there's no more waiting, here we go.
BOUDREAU: Lisa Alexander was just getting settled into her morning routine at the Echelon building in north Austin. She remembers hearing the familiar sounds of her IRS colleague and friend, Vernon Hunter, walking into the office.
ALEXANDER: I remember Vernon coming through humming that morning. Now, I didn't actually see Vernon, just heard him come through. Good morning, good morning. That's what he usually does. He was making his morning stroll. And then I finally get situated. And boom!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A single-engine aircraft has crashed into a seven-story building.
DEHAVEN: Within seconds, I saw a big plume of black smoke. So I knew it had crashed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was like a fireball. People let out a scream all around me. A few people were crying.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Some people were running. Some people were peeling out of their cars. And we could see smoke coming out of the back end of the building.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The pilot apparently crashed into the building intentionally.
BOUDREAU (on camera): Stack slammed his plane between the first and second floors of this building. It exploded on impact.
ALEXANDER: It's like the building kind of swayed.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Lisa Alexander had no idea what had just happened. The impact was seismic.
ALEXANDER: So it's, like, I know we're not having an earthquake. And then the explosion. It was, like, Oh, my God! And by that time, the tiles start falling down. The windows start shattering. And then it was dark.
BOUDREAU: Chaos quickly turned to fear as Alexander and the others tried to escape.
ALEXANDER: And as we opened the door, this "poof" sound comes in, as if it was a flame or something behind it. And that's when it set in to me, Oh, my God, I'm not going to see my son.
BOUDREAU: Robin DeHaven headed for the smoke.
(on camera): So you just drove into this parking lot?
DEHAVEN: When I saw that this is where it was coming from, I just turned right away and flew into this, avoiding the people that are running.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): A veteran of Iraq with two tours under his belt, DeHaven says his instinct kicked in. He grabbed his ladder and raced to help those trapped in the building, those like Lisa Alexander.
ALEXANDER: We get to the window, and we're all yelling and screaming, Help us, Help us.
BOUDREAU: DeHaven tried to help, but he couldn't find a solid footing for his ladder. At one point, the ladder was swaying. With no other choice, he climbed into the burning building.
DEHAVEN: There was just daylight through the broken windows in that room, enough I can see that there's office cubicles, chairs. Looks like somebody just knocked stuff over running around. Ceiling tiles were falling down.
BOUDREAU: DeHaven eventually made eye contact with Lisa Alexander, and her reaction was unmistakable.
(on camera): He said that he looked into your eyes and he saw fear, panic.
ALEXANDER: Yes. Yes. Because I didn't know if there was going to be another explosion or not. And I just knew if it was, that's the one that was going to take us out.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): After the ladder was finally steady, DeHaven had to talk Alexander out of the building to safety.
DEHAVEN: The look on her face when she started climbing out that ladder -- and she was straight panic.
ALEXANDER: I was nervous. So I was, like, shaking. And Robin is, like, I got you. Just come on. Just come on. Put your foot down. Come on. You can do it.
DEHAVEN: I was trying to be nice and says, Ma'am, we've got to do this and she -- and just trying to earn her trust.
ALEXANDER: That's not the way I wanted to go down, but it was the only way, next to jumping.
I know it feels good to be on this side.
BOUDREAU: Alexander remembers not only DeHaven's reassuring words but also the encouragement of the crowd that had gathered after the attack.
ALEXANDER: I guess the crowd helped me out because I was real nervous.
BOUDREAU (on camera): People were cheering for you.
ALEXANDER: Yes. Like, You can do it, you can do it!
BOUDREAU (voice-over): After Alexander, Robin DeHaven went back five more times into the smoldering building, helping rescue six lives in all.
From the air, it's obvious that this attack could have been so much worse.
(on camera): You can see the damage from here and here.
WHITE: Oh, yes. Yes.
BOUDREAU: Wow. That's so close to the freeway.
WHITE: It's right there.
BOUDREAU: This could have been a real disaster.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Coming up: Could there be other Joe Stacks out there? And how concerned should those who work for the federal government really be?
ALEXANDER: You hear stories about the IRS, but it became a reality that day for me. I don't know if this is what I want to continue to do.
BOUDREAU: One man, one plane, and one deadly mission.
ALEXANDER: For that whole week, I was waking up at between 1:00 and 2:00, just crying my eyes out, you know, glad to be here and puzzled as to why did I come so close to death.
BOUDREAU: Survivor Lisa Alexander's trauma is still fresh.
(on camera): When you finally found out that this person -- it wasn't an accident, he targeted that building, he targeted you...
ALEXANDER: You hear stories about IRS, but it became a reality that day for me. It was, like, I don't know if this is what I want to continue to do or not. And as time progressed, it was, you know, a message from God to me saying, like, Hey, if I took you to that and brought you through, when it's your time, you're going to go. Everybody else got out except for Vern.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Vernon Hunter, a close friend and colleague, did not survive. The 68-year-old veteran served two tours in Vietnam.
ALEXANDER: Vernon, he was a nice guy. He would do anything for you.
BOUDREAU: Hunter was a husband, a father, and a grandfather of seven.
KEN HUNTER, VERNON HUNTER'S SON: For my 5-year-old, I mean, she loves him just -- you know, and the two of them together had so much fun. And you know, he was always talking about seeing her when she grows up or when she graduates from high school and from college. He's not going to see that. She's going to miss all that time with him.
BOUDREAU: The patriot guard stood by and U.S. flags waved in honor of the veteran who served his country.
(on camera): What are you thinking?
ALEXANDER: I hate that it happened. And I question why, and why did we come so close and it just ended up being Vern.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Lisa Alexander did find some meaning in that tragedy that day.
ALEXANDER: Because I was raised all my life to go to church, believe in God. And it's, like, you know, maybe it's time for me to start believing.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In memory of the tragic events last week...
BOUDREAU: One week after the tragedy, a moment of silence and a ceremony to honor emergency responders and Robin DeHaven for their service.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Robin DeHaven is a true hero.
DEHAVEN: We know that time is of the essence in a situation like that and someone needs to react right away that's willing to do it.
BOUDREAU: He was at the right place at the right time.
DEHAVEN: It was, like, No, go! Go away! The building's on fire!
BOUDREAU: Not surprising since DeHaven wanted to rescue people for a living.
DEHAVEN: I actually tried out for the fire department two years prior, too, and so it was just kind of, like...
BOUDREAU (on camera): What happened there?
DEHAVEN: I didn't make it.
BOUDREAU: Big mistake!
BOUDREAU (voice-over): He received the city's public service honor for being a hero, a title he's still getting used to.
(on camera): People call you a hero?
DEHAVEN: Yes. And I'm, like, OK. Like, my son asked me the other day, You're a hero, aren't you, Daddy? Just out of nowhere because he's heard that from his grandma and mom and everyone. And I said, yes, at one point, I guess I was a hero. But I'm not a normal hero, I'm just your dad.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): The suicide attack that left two dead and 13 injured also left those who knew Joe Stack conflicted.
CHERYL STACK, WIDOW OF JOE STACK: My heart grieves for the loss of life caused by my husband.
BOUDREAU: Stack's widow, Cheryl (ph), has spoken little about the tragedy but made this statement at a fund-raiser for her and her daughter.
STACK: I am the victim of a violent crime done by someone I loved and someone who loved me very much. I have a lot to come to terms with, dealing with that.
BOUDREAU: Mourning the man they knew and loved but feeling angry and betrayed by his actions, friends like band mate Billy Eli were also shocked that Stack was behind the suicide attack.
ELI: I remember thinking -- I don't believe I said it, but I remember thinking, Somebody must have stole Joe's plane. I wonder how they stole his plane? It's hard to steal an airplane.
BOUDREAU (on camera): So then you realized it was your friend, Joe Stack, who flew his plane into the building. ELI: Yes. And I started mentally shuffling all the cards and trying to figure out some way how this couldn't be right, how this couldn't be Joe. No, it's got to be something else. There's got to be more to it than I'm hearing.
BOUDREAU (voice-over): And that's what makes a lone wolf like Joe Stack so disturbing, that he operated under the radar. According to an FBI report, the most significant domestic terrorism threat over the next five years will continue to be the lone wolf terrorist. Inspired by the ideologies of former terrorism groups, their relative anonymity limits law enforcement detection capability and makes prevention extremely difficult.
Brian Levin, an expert on lone wolf extremists, echoes that warning.
LEVIN: When you take extreme hatred and emotional instability and hook it, in whole or even in part, to a belief system, you set forth a walking time bomb.
BOUDREAU: Just as disturbing, Stack's friend, Billy Eli, has been contacted by extremists who expect him to take up Stack's cause.
(on camera): All of a sudden, you're linked to Joe Stack.
ELI: Right. I'm getting a little fouled (ph) out from that. I've got people that are, like, Hey, I know you're going to want to pick up the gauntlet. Man, there's no gauntlet!
BOUDREAU (voice-over): Levin says that's exactly what Stack wanted, to inspire others.
LEVIN: He wanted to light the fuse that would cause a general uprising by others who feel cheated by the tax system to act out violently, as well.
BOUDREAU: And he cautions there may be other Joe Stacks out there.
LEVIN: He's become a folk hero for some in the anti-tax world -- the extreme anti-tax world, that is. And that's not only sad, it's dangerous. And I'm not talking about conservative people of good will who go to church and vote for conservative candidates, I'm talking about people who've opted out. And when one person opts out and commits violence, there will be others who invariably are influenced by that. And what I worry about is that the next Joe Stack will be more successful.