Director Wray Recognizes 25th Anniversary of Oklahoma City Bombing
FBI Director Christopher Wray delivered remarks recognizing the 25th anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing on April 19, 1995.
I hope you’ll join me in taking a moment to reflect on a single defining day in our nation’s history, 25 years ago—a day that forever changed a community, and changed the course of our own history here at the FBI.
On the morning of April 19, 1995, two men committed an unthinkable act of terror against their own country, detonating a bomb outside the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. That bomb killed 168 people, including 19 children. Hundreds more were injured. Thousands of lives transformed.
That day showed all of us, in the starkest possible way, that hatred and intolerance for the values we all share could come from within our own country … from people we grew up with, who went to our schools, who were our neighbors.
The FBI’s OKBOMB investigation remains one of the largest and most complex cases the FBI has ever undertaken. Over 32 months, the FBI logged more than one million hours of investigative work through the OKBOMB task force. Investigators conducted more than 28,000 interviews, collected nearly 3.5 tons of evidence, and searched one billion records. And in the end, working alongside our partners across all levels of government, we brought to justice the men who were responsible for that despicable attack.
And we became stronger as an organization as a result. In the years since, we’ve applied lessons learned from OKBOMB to improve the way we combat terrorism and manage these kinds of large-scale events. We’ve enhanced the way we investigate explosives, secure facilities, and protect infrastructure.
To pick just a few examples: Our WMD—Weapons of Mass Destruction—Directorate now works with law enforcement, industry, and academic partners to prevent, detect, and counter explosives.
We’ve roughly tripled our number of SABTs (our Special Agent Bomb Technicians), who now reside in every field office, ready at a moment’s notice to respond to any suspicious device.
TEDAC, our Terrorist Explosive Device Analytical Center, now analyzes bombs and bombmaking devices, and gathers intelligence to protect both U.S. and international partners from attacks.
We’ve got exponentially more agents working counterterrorism cases, we’ve significantly expanded our JTTFs (our Joint Terrorism Task Forces), and we’ve developed new and stronger partnerships across the U.S. and overseas, to find and stop those seeking to commit violent acts against us.
We know that terrorism can happen anywhere, at anytime. And we know the best way to prevent an attack is by working together.
Our work in investigating the Oklahoma City bombing reflected some of the very best the FBI has to offer. To this day, our number one priority at the FBI remains protecting the American people from terrorism—both international and domestic.
We’re investigating and disrupting those who take—or plan to take—violent or criminal action to further an ideology or anti-government sentiment. These days, we’re laser focused on lone offenders, whose very isolation make them difficult to identify, investigate, and disrupt. Just last month in the Kansas City area, we disrupted a plot by a U.S. citizen who, motivated by racial, religious and antigovernment views, planned to use a car bomb at a hospital—an attack that could have caused mass casualties in the midst of this coronavirus outbreak.
That’s why we remind ourselves every day that there’s nothing more important than the work we do … the people we do the work with … and the people we do the work for. We’ve shown that when an attack does happen, our agents and analysts will move heaven and earth to find those responsible. Our FBI victim specialists help heal the victims, their families, and their communities. And we’ll continue to do everything we can to help them, the people who need it most.
Not that long ago, I visited our Oklahoma City Field Office. I got to tour the museum and the memorial. I met with victims, and with some of those who responded to the attack. I heard stories that were heartbreaking, but also filled with hope and healing.
I heard how quickly the FBI responded. The way we tenaciously investigated the bombing and brought those responsible to justice. The way we worked with the victims and helped them to heal. The way we’ve inspired a younger generation to consider working for the FBI themselves some day.
The victims … the families of the victims … our law enforcement partners. Doing right by them is what drives me—what drives all of us—in this mission. It’s because of them that we never give up, that we exhaust every avenue in the pursuit of justice.
When we think of that day in Oklahoma City, we remember the way everyday people responded in that moment of crisis. Those acts of inspiring kindness and generosity became known as “the Oklahoma Standard.”
That standard wasn’t just something borne out of tragedy that dissipated as the years wore on. It’s grown and evolved. It’s the way Oklahomans rely on one another … how they treat everyone like family … how they’ve got each other’s backs, no matter what.
It’s an example of America at its best. The way we come together in this country during the darkest of times, whether confronting a terrorist attack, or these days, an unprecedented virus. The idea that unity will always be stronger than hatred. And the hope that when times are tough, we’ll help each other and rise above whatever comes our way.
I was supposed to be in Oklahoma City on Sunday to mark the anniversary. While the live event won’t be happening as planned because of COVID-19, Oklahomans will now be gathering virtually as the 168 names are read, one by one. And as each name is read, we’ll remember those who are no longer with us. We’ll remind ourselves that there’s a lot of good in this world and a lot to be thankful for. We can’t eradicate hate, and we can’t wish away evil. But we can continue to stand together on the side of the freedoms we all cherish.
So let’s all take to heart the Oklahoma Standard. Let’s look to our friends in Oklahoma for strength and inspiration. And let’s take care of each other, every day. Thanks, and God bless.
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