Terrorism research and interest expands

Wednesday, May 7th 2008, 4:09 pm
By: News 9

By Gan Matthews, NEWS 9

Though it seems like yesterday, the Oklahoma City bombing was 13 years ago. Today, the Oklahoma City National Memorial works, through a series of exhibits, to keep the memory of that day--and its lessons--alive.

"This is the only place in the United States you can lean about terrorism and its impact," Nancy Coggins with the Oklahoma City National Memorial said.

Half a million people tour the memorial and museum every year, many coming from out of state.

"Well, I remember it when it happened," Spokane, WA. resident, Kurt Rudy said. "I was in Washington state, and it impacted us greatly."

In recent years visitors have had to digest more than just the sort of domestic terrorism represented by Oklahoma City--but the international varieties as well.

"Well, between that and Sep.11, those images are just horrific, and every time you think about terrorism you think about the buildings and you see the images of the building that isn't there anymore," Snellville, GA. resident, Virginia McVay said.

Since the Oklahoma City bombing and Sep. 11, research into extremism and terrorism has expanded dramatically. What have we learned? And how safe are we now? A good place to start is at the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, located near the bombing site.

"We're about understanding terrorists, terrorism, thinking about them, recognizing their weaknesses and recognizing our own, and, conceptually, presenting methods of prevention by understanding what to do," MIPT Executive Director Don Hamilton said.

University of Oklahoma researcher Dr. Kelly Damphousse used MIPT funds to study over 500 domestic terrorist incidents. He's found interesting time and space patterns.

"What we're finding, especially among international terrorists and left wing terrorists and the environmental terrorists, is that they tend to live very close to their target," Damphousse said. "Right wing terrorists on the other hand tend to live relatively far away from their target. It seems link Tuesday is the most popular day of the week for terrorism incidents to take place, and we've labeled a couple of places here, so Sep. 11 took place on Tuesday."

Damphousse's research could help the FBI track and break up terrorist plots before they happen. But he finds little terrorist threat in Oklahoma now. Neither does Kerry Pettingill, the Director of Oklahoma's Office of Homeland Security. He said that's no reason to get complacent.

"As long as there's a person in this world, in the United States, in Oklahoma that wants to cause harm, they can do it," Pettingill said.

To prevent that, Homeland Security devotes its resources to developing reliable communication between first responders--and to defending Oklahoma's infrastructure.

Despite all the research, all the money, all the effort, no one expects terrorism to be completely stamped out.

"What I really hope we can do is drive it back to the margins of civilization," Hamilton said.

"We can never go back to where we were before Sep. 11," Pettingill said.

So is all this research, all this effort, worth it? Ask a visitor to the Memorial.

"I think we have to try to understand why these things happen, because if we don't understand it, we can't stop it," Snellville, GA. resident, Ted McVay said. "And, then we have to remember it in order to prepare that it doesn't happen again."

We already know that it can--it did--happen here.