Table of Contents
Overview of the Oklahoma Bombing
The bombing happened some minutes before 9.00 am on 19 April 1995 in Oklahoma City (Rosenberg, 2012). The bomb was hidden in a rented Ryder truck, which was parked in front of Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, occupied by business offices. The truck owner was Timothy McVeigh, a Gulf War veteran, who became an anti-government activist. At that time, most employees had already arrived at their workstation. The truck was carrying on its back a 5,000-pound bomb, which was a combination of more than 6,200 pounds of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, nitro methane, and diesel fuel. At 9:02 a.m., McVeigh switched on a fuse in his rented truck and started jogging away from the truck. The mixture exploded, causing enormous destruction to the building and leaving 168 people dead, including 19 children, and extra 800 people injured. It took weeks for health officers and other rescue services to go through the remains of the victims (Rosenberg, 2012).
Not long after the incident, the police arrived and discovered an unexploded bomb. Ninety minutes later, Timothy McVeigh was driving when he was arrested by the highway patrol officer Charlie Hanger for being in possession of weapons against the law and the absence of a license plate. Before his charges were dismissed, investigations showed his connection with the bombing through his purchases and his rental agreement (Rosenberg, 2012). Two days later, his friend Terry Nichols was arrested for his contribution to the arrangement. The two were charged with committing murder. McVeigh and Nichols were found guilty on 3 June 1997 and 24 December 1997, respectively. McVeigh was sentenced to death on 15 August 1997 and executed on 11 June 2001 by lethal injection. On the other hand, Nichols was condemned to life imprisonment on 11 June 2001 and went for the murder charges by Oklahoma State on March 2004. Another culprit was Michael Fortier, who knew about the arrangements and opted to remain mum, but testified against McVeigh and Nichols. Michael Fortier’s charges consisted of a fine of 200,000 U.S dollars and 12-year imprisonment. Investigators found that McVeigh and Nichols were supporters of an armed force movement, whose intention was to get even with the federal government, in particular the FBI and the administrative centers for alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms with offices at Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. The reason for getting even was their way of handling the Waco and Ruby Ridge confrontation that happened on 19 April 1993, leaving 75 of their members dead, including a number of young children. On 23 May 1995, Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was demolished and a monument built in 2000 to commemorate the catastrophe of the Oklahoma City bombing (Rosenberg, 2012).
Three month after the execution of McVeigh and eight years after the Oklahoma City bombing, on 11 September 2001, an appalling act of horror targeted the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, with the number of deaths being approximately 17 times that of the Oklahoma incident (Dakss, 2009). The event was spearheaded by Al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden. Whereas McVeigh characterized the end of an active patriot group, Osama bin Laden characterized the establishment of a supreme consolidation against bomb attacks. The Oklahoma City bombing was uncomplicated and orderly to handle because the authorities were able to arrest the culprits. However, the government did not formulate anti-terror laws, but did it after the Al Qaeda bombing. The Al Qaeda bombing left Americans with the awareness that all of them are open to terrorism despite their location. The survivors and family members of the victims of both attacks suffered anguish, desolation, soreness, anger, and sorrow.
The consequences of Oklahoma City bombing were extreme and reaching far beyond the borders of the Oklahoma community. The tragedy affected not only the victims’ friends and families but also the entire nation. The immediate public health concern was to clear the roadways leading to the bombsite for firefighters to put out the fire and smoke. More than 16,000 people were in the area at the time of the blast. 12,000 people were assisting in rescue efforts, which included handing of dead bodies and caring for the injured. Two care and first aid centers were immediately set up to cater for the injured. Police officers defused the unexploded bomb and confirmed that no other explosives remained. Some of the dead and injured victims were trapped in the building and required joint effort to evacuate them. Since Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building had federal government offices, such as those of the military, whose occupants were trained on bi-annual evacuation, their presence added value in caring for the injured during and after evacuation.
Another immediate and vital role is to commission an individual or organization to take action against the calamity to avoid its repetition in future, as well as check and balance resources by identifying their capacity in a different field. In this regard, the Governor of Oklahoma City took charge of the allocation of duties among state agencies. The Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services was placed in charge of managing publicly funded mental health services; and the University of Oklahoma Health Science Centre was placed in charge of managing all research activities (Sunderland & Menehan, 2007). Two Bombsite Compassion centers were established to give brief treatment and referral. The two centers were relocated and given another name, Project Heartland, which have since worked together in disaster management. Federal Emergency Management Agency immediately granted DMHSAS funds, which were handed in within the weeks after attack and followed a nine-month extension to regular service grant. Referral mechanisms at Oklahoma City Bombing were easier because most health professionals volunteered to care for the injured victims at no or low cost.
Immediate and Long-Term Public Health Issues
The long-term issues resulting from the Oklahoma City bombing include psychological effects, triggered by the occurrences following the shocking event. Survivors struggle with upsetting memories and thoughts of the attack, causing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The main causes of PTSD are not clearly defined, although researchers claim that it can be influenced by age, personality, genes, or an unexpected disturbing event. Media coverage contributes to the growth of PTSD symptoms, which include nightmares and sleep disorders, flashbacks, fear and anxiety, anger and irritation, depression, stress, and unenthusiastic views. The effects often begin in 3 months after the incident, even though PTSD often does not develop until years have passed since the incident. A mental professional will diagnose if these symptoms can lead to PTSD because not all cases will lead to it. Therapies are mostly advised if a person has PTSD. Although more emphasis is required on PTSD, some journalists and researchers consider it practicable to change the current strategy to focus more on community-based mental health intervention to fight the trauma (Reyes and Elhai, 2004). After the Oklahoma City bombing, Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services was charged with the responsibility of managing mental health services, such as treating distress. Although FEMA funds did not cover long-term services, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation supported medical services to one component of the Department of Psychiatry Behavior in response to disasters with more than 3.5 million U.S dollars. The funds were also given to the University of Oklahoma Health Science Centre to research into the terrorist attack and reflect on how communities reacted mentally to such events. The insurance companies issued funds amounting to 95,950 U.S dollars to cover long-term mental harm for the survivors. This was an obstacle to the Department of Psychiatry Behavior response to the disaster (Crisan, 2012). Research shows that almost everyone who suffered the trauma was because of public discussions, the media, and disaster unpreparedness. Approximately half of the survivors of the Oklahoma City attack have testified of developing an active post-disaster trauma; one-third met the condition of diagnosis of PTSD. The PTSD symptoms were experienced in the whole nation and the world at large. The immediate measures were to prosecute the culprits and help survivors manage themselves and treat their post-disaster psychopathology.
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Lessons from the Event
During research, sampling should be done on the survivors and affected persons in order to be acquainted with the accurate information and reflect it in medical studies. Joint ventures should be formed by all medical providers so that incase of any calamity, they will be able to handle it with ease. For instance, it could be the Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, which worked closely with Project Heartland to treat victims with mental illness (Pfefferbaum, 1996). It is also necessary to estimate the effective and useful ways of treatment used for disaster casualties and get the best advice when undertaking new fields.
After the Oklahoma City bombing, the Federal government acknowledged the necessity of getting involved immediately after any catastrophe occurs. Health experts and rescuers from different agencies combined effort. Additionally, two care and first aid centers were created, i.e., Compassion center before the end of that dreadful day. The centers were taking care of injured, provided counseling services, referral, outreach services, passing information for, and about missing victims and all urgent situations that arose. The center was run by 400 mental health experts in 16 tireless days in collaboration with a nine-member Crisis Intervention Team. The Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services did the groundbreaking work for Project Heartland on 15 May 1995. This was the first and unique mental service provider in the U.S history to be the direct responder to terrorist attacks and other calamities, given that no other service provider of the kind had ever been formed. Mental health workers had not formed any guidelines to direct them through any major catastrophe and became aware that working as field clinician is different from working as a traditional mental health worker. The Oklahoma City bombing was the first disaster that highlighted the advantage of having a model to manage catastrophes and crisis counseling techniques. Mental health professionals, like social workers, have undergone specialized training to equip themselves in advance with the knowledge to work as field clinicians (Pfefferbaum, 1996).
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In conclusion, calamities arise because they are hard to predict. This calls for all people, firms, and agencies to familiarize themselves with guidelines that can help them and others in case of any attack. The large support from within, as was evident in the Oklahoma City bombing, left the nation proud of itself.