Chapter X

The Oklahoma City bombing experience provided a close-up view of the devastation of terrorism. It severely tested the effectiveness of victims' rights laws and policies, the adequacy of resources for victims of terrorism, and the capacity of victim services networks. The Oklahoma City experience was a step in developing a more effective crisis response plan for victims and their families. The bombing has been the impetus for congressional hearings; passage of special funding legislation for victim relief; the confluence of experts in emergency preparedness, medical and mental health, victim assistance, and other fields to examine their crisis response capacity and plans; training development; and identification and coordination of resources.

Many of the lessons learned from the Oklahoma City bombing response have helped shape the response of federal, state, and local officials in other cases of terrorism including the school shootings at Columbine High School and the terrorist attacks on Khobar Towers and the United States embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; these lessons have also been wed during the preparations for the trial concerning the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103. Involvement in these subsequent cases has significantly added to a knowledge of what needs to be done to assist the victims of terrorism. This knowledge has come not only from those involved in responding to victims but also from the victims themselves who have shared their painful experiences so that lessons could be learned and their losses would not be in vain.

Now that terrorism has crossed the borders of the United States, it poses a very real threat within the United States while continuing to be a threat to Americans abroad. The goal of terrorism is not just to kill people but to send a message to the public and to the government. The devastating impact of a single act of terrorism can last for generations. Federal, state, and local governments must be prepared to respond to all aspects of terrorist acts, including finding ways to mitigate the physical, emotional, and psychological impact on victims and those professionals who are charged with responding to these terrible crimes.

The recommendations presented in this report are not comprehensive, but they are intended to be practical and useful steps that will help refine and improve the crisis response to terrorism. Public officials at all levels of government can implement these recommendations to ensure that this Nation's communities and agencies are better equipped to respond to the victims of future acts of terrorism.

Previous Contents Next

Responding to Terrorism Victims: Oklahoma City and Beyond October 2000