Local News

Oklahoma City Bombing Changed The Way Courthouses are Guarded

Posted April 18, 1999

— Monday marked a somber anniversary of domestic terrorism. Four years ago, 168 people died when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building blew up in Oklahoma City.

And six years ago, 76 people died in a fire in Waco, Texas. That ended a 51-day standoff between federal agents and the Branch Davidian Cult.

In the wake of the deadly Oklahoma City bombing and other attacks, increased security is a sign of the times at courthouses all over the country.

The memory of the deadly Oklahoma City bombing is still fresh on the minds of many Americans. Veterans commemorated the somber anniversary in Durham Monday.

As the American flag was lowered, they offered a prayer for the victims and reflected on a tragedy that could have struck anywhere.

"Even though it's been four years since this terrible event in Oklahoma City, we have chosen to make it a reminder each year that life is precious," said Michael Phaup of the Durham VA Medical Center.

The bombing forever changed the way lawmen protect courthouses and the people inside them.

"It's a difficult world we live in, and there's no guarantees," said Lt. Walter Martin of courthouse operations.

Thousands of people work in and visit the Wake County Courthouse each day. None of them can get in without passing through a metal detector first.

Thirty sheriff's deputies and 14 private security employees stand guard at the entrances and patrol the building.

"Society in general has created a heightened concern for security," said Martin.

Concrete barricades prevent vehicles from getting too close. The parking garage, once open to the public, is now reserved for certain employees and controlled by card access.

Martin tells his deputies every morning never to let their guard down.

"We do try to emphasize that the best security systems have flaws. And for that, there's nothing as good as the human element," said Martin.

Many of those changes at the Wake County Courthouse were made after the Oklahoma City bombing.

Federal agencies who have offices in Raleigh say they are operating under a heightened sense of security Monday.

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