This week marks National Crime Victims’ Week, a time to focus on supporting and empowering crime victims in healing and recovery.
I had the opportunity to travel to Oklahoma City earlier this week to attend the memorial ceremony commemorating the 20th anniversary of the bombing of the Murrah Federal Office Building. On April 19, 1995, a truck bomb killed 168 people, mostly federal employees. Among the fatalities were 19 children in the building’s daycare center. The bombing not only killed those victims, but it also rocked the community in Oklahoma City and the entire nation. The perpetrators were convicted, bringing some measure of justice to the victims and community.
On Sunday, after the names of each victim was read by a loved one, many of the thousands of people who had gathered at the memorial site exchanged hugs and tears. Even 20 years later, the scars of that day are indelible.
But as FBI Director James Comey said during the memorial service, “It is not the moment that defines us. It is not the act itself that shapes our destiny. It is what comes next.”
As sad as the occasion was, I left Oklahama City feeling inspired by the healing and resilience there. Not far from where the bomb went off, a lone tree survived. With some care, the tree has thrived, and is now known as “the Survivor Tree,” a symbol of hope and new growth. The Oklahoma City Law School has reclaimed the Murrah name, dedicating its new Institute for Homeland Security Law and Policy “The Murrah Center,” so that the Murrah name may have a newly positive and forward-looking legacy.
Here at the U.S. Attorney’s Office, our victim specialists assist victims every day. We help fraud victims who have lost their life savings, health care victims who have been physically harmed, children exploited by sexual predators, victims of carjacking, armed robbery and other violent crime. We ensure that they receive all of their legal rights at all phases of a criminal case.
In addition, we also work to protect victims and witnesses from physical harm. Funds for relocation expenses, security systems and witness identity are available to help protect witnesses from harm. In order to defeat the “no snitch” mentality that we sometimes encounter when victims or witnesses are afraid of retaliation, we understand that we must work to earn their trust.
But an important part of our work is to help with the healing, connecting our victims to service providers who help them recover. Like the tree that survives in Oklahoma, and the Murrah name that lives on in a new and positive light, crime victims can thrive again with some assistance from others. That is what can come next.
Barbara L. McQuade
United States Attorney
Eastern District of Michigan