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H.R. 1849, Oklahoma City National Memorial

 

STATEMENT OF JOHN POULAND
REGIONAL ADMINISTRATOR

GREATER SOUTHWEST REGION
GENERAL SERVICES ADMINISTRATION
BEFORE THE
SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS AND PUBLIC LANDS
COMMITTEE ON RESOURCES
UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

SEPTEMBER 9, 1997

 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

My name is John Pouland, Regional Administrator of the General Services Administration (GSA) for the Greater Southwest Region which includes Oklahoma. I am pleased to appear before you today in support of House bill H.R. 1849, and its Senate counterpart S. 871, bills to establish the Oklahoma City National Memorial and to designate the Oklahoma City National Memorial Trust. The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was part of the GSA inventory and the legislation directs GSA to transfer the building site to the Oklahoma City National Memorial Trust.

On April 19, 1995, a vicious attack on the Government killed 168 people, including 19 children, and destroyed the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Nobody who has heard about this senseless act of terrorism, seen the horrifying pictures of human suffering and total destruction, or was in any other way personally affected by this tragedy will ever forget that day. We will always remember where we were when the news shocked the nation and the world. Recent events such as the McVeigh trial and the sentencing caused us all to relive those tragic moments and listen to the heartwrenching stories of the survivors and the victims' families. Who will ever be able to erase the pictures of the small child in the arms of the firefighter etched into our minds and hearts forever?

I am here today, to support an effort which will help the people of Oklahoma and the rest of the Nation to continue the healing process. As the President stated during the Ceremony on behalf of the Oklahoma City Memorial Foundation last month, "The Memorial design is elegant. It is symbolic. It manages to focus on this act of unconscionable violence and still honor the valor of the people of the community and the lives of the victims in a setting of reflection and peace that should leave people, when they go through it, feeling stronger rather than weaker."

The people of the General Services Administration were personally affected by the suffering, involved in the rescue and emergency management efforts and assisted in the re-establishment of operational capabilities. Now we are proud to help with the healing process. The Murrah Federal Building was part of the GSA-owned Federal inventory and the child care center was part of a nation-wide effort to create childcare for Federal workers. Tragically, two of our employees died in the attack, and 20 others were injured. Our regional employees were particularly distraught since they knew many of the tenants from the various agencies housed in the building.

Immediately following the bombing, GSA employees assisted emergency teams with the evacuation of the building while Federal Protective Officers established a security perimeter around the building for safety precautions and to expedite aid. Within hours of the explosion, GSA established a command center in Oklahoma City and located space for an Oklahoma City Disaster Field Office for the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Department of Justice. By the next morning, approximately 50 GSA personnel were on-site assisting in critical areas. At the same time, surrounding buildings like the Federal Building and Courthouse, one block south of the Murrah Building, and the U.S. Post Office and Courthouse, two blocks south, also sustained damage and received immediate assistance to maximize safety and restore normal operations.

GSA was able to respond immediately in various ways to the Oklahoma City disaster. We either provided services directly or coordinated with other agencies and response groups. These circumstances were a true test of GSA's preparedness, systems and procedures.

Since this tragedy, the site of the destroyed Murrah Building was cleared and stands ready to be transformed from a site of pain and sorrow to a site of remembrance and healing. GSA fully supports the establishment of the Memorial and is prepared to transfer the site to an appropriate Federal agency or local entity if that is deemed appropriate. At the same time, GSA is planning to construct a new Federal building in Oklahoma City, as authorized by the Administration and Congress and in cooperation with the city.

The establishment of a National Memorial is the right thing to do. GSA supports the establishment of the Memorial and would like to work with the Oklahoma delegation, the National Park Service, and other agencies and entities to find the appropriate way to manage the Memorial.

Mr. Chairman, this concludes my remarks. I would be happy to answer any questions that you and the Committee Members may have. Thank you.