Lessons of Explosion at NY Trade Center Helpful in Oklahoma Officials Are Much Better Prepared This Time

By Jon Sawyer Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau Chief | St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO), April 21, 1995 | Go to article overview

Lessons of Explosion at NY Trade Center Helpful in Oklahoma Officials Are Much Better Prepared This Time


Jon Sawyer Post-Dispatch Washington Bureau Chief, St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)


One of the most poignant lessons of this week's brutal assault on Oklahoma City is that America has come a long way toward learning to live - and cope - with horror.

Only a little more than two years ago, on Feb. 26, 1993, urban terror on a massive scale surfaced in this country when followers of a radical Egyptian cleric set off the explosion that dug a six-story crater beneath the World Trade Center in lower New York City.

The skills authorities learned in New York were on display this week, in a revamped emergency response plan that paid off in faster delivery of specialists and equipment, much better coordination among state and federal agencies, and far tighter control, at least initially, on information to the media.

And at the First Christian Church, a futuristic church campus north of downtown, the bereaved families of victims met with teams of clergy, mental health specialists and representatives of the Oklahoma Medical Examiners' Office, who were looking for photographs, dental records and X-rays that might help in the identification of corpses.

Ervin Donaldson, pastor of Calvary Christian Church, was one of nearly 50 clergy helping out. He explained that a "clergy room" had been set up on the fourth floor, where families will be brought for spiritual comfort once positive identification had been made.

"The only thing I can tell people is that I'll pray with them," Donaldson said. "I offer them hope in God."

On the parking lot outside, Ray Blakeley, director of the state medical examiner's office, said he was asking families to bring in anything that might help in the identification of bodies that were badly disfigured by the force of the bomb blast.

In the case of at least a dozen children killed in the blast, Blakeley said, investigators searching for positive identification may have nothing more to go on that the footprints taken at each child's birth. Everyone Pulling Together

It was impressive to see how everyone pulled together at First Christian, as they provided comfort to several hundred grieving family members while keeping a steady flow of reporters and camera equipment at a respectful distance outside.

Impressive, and a little sad, that in the sometimes vicious world of 1995 so many people, even in "safe" Oklahoma City, have learned so well what to do.

What happened in New York two years surely played a part, for individuals and public agencies alike, as a group of Islamic extremists gave America an object lesson in mass vulnerability. …

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