By Representative James Lankford
As we somberly reflect on the 11th anniversary of the attacks on New York City, the Pentagon and a flight of everyday American heroes who courageously gave their lives over Pennsylvania to protect the lives of others, we always remember the victims and their families. Our hearts will always be heavy as we remember those who were lost. Each year we also encourage the efforts of those who work to ensure this never happens again.
When tragedy strikes Americans are resilient and resourceful. Out of the ashes of the then-worst terrorist attack on American soil in 1995, the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, in which 168 Oklahomans lost their lives, grew the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism (MIPT). Responding to the attack, securing the area, and saving lives are critical during the aftermath, but what could be done to prevent attacks from happening in the first place?
MIPT, incorporated in 2000 and located in Oklahoma City next to where the Murrah Building once stood, believes the expertise and experience of local law enforcement agencies can provide an answer to that question. These men and women on the ground know their jurisdictions. They are familiar with their communities and are best-equipped to look for abnormalities and anomalies in everyday life. Few Oklahomans are aware of the national significance of the MIPT and the contribution our community continues to make in terrorism prevention.
Charlie Hangar was an Oklahoma Highway patrolman just doing his job on April 19, 1995, when he saw a car driving without a license plate north of Oklahoma City and pulled the driver over. Timothy McVeigh, who was ultimately convicted for the Murrah bombing, was in custody just hours after detonating that deadly bomb. Trooper Hangar was just doing his job. Because of superior training and his skills under pressure, he was able to read the situation and respond accordingly.
Since 2000, MIPT took the critical skills Charlie Hangar needed to evaluate his routine traffic stop and used them to develop programs that have trained more than 13,000 uniformed officers and law enforcement leaders throughout the United States. MIPT has completed training for law enforcement in Boston, Chicago, Miami-Dade, Minneapolis, Phoenix, Washington Metropolitan Police, Oklahoma City, and Denver. They have also initiated an innovative pilot program to provide training to small, underserved communities and tribal agencies in cooperation with the National Guard. In the spring of 2011, the Institute hosted an executive leadership symposium on terrorism with the National Governors Association and the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Homeland Defense and Security.
The important work that this great Oklahoma organization does each day reminds us why we need organizations like MIPT in the first place. Our local law enforcement officers are an essential component to protecting American liberty from terrorism--both foreign and domestic.
We will never forget that bright September morning in 2001 or April 19, 1995, and the thousands of mothers, fathers, children, and friends we lost. However, we can't let the passage of time make us complacent to future threats. I am proud of Oklahoma's role in utilizing local ingenuity to defend our nation from national threats. May we never forget or lose our vigilance.