Okla. City PR community unites to dedicate bombing memorial

OKLAHOMA CITY: While the media devoted much of its attention last month to the first anniversary of the Columbine slayings, PR volunteers labored just as diligently as their Denver counterparts to ensure that the April 19 dedication of the Oklahoma City National Memorial - held on the five-year anniversary of the bombing that left 168 dead - didn't get lost in the shuffle.

OKLAHOMA CITY: While the media devoted much of its attention last month to the first anniversary of the Columbine slayings, PR volunteers labored just as diligently as their Denver counterparts to ensure that the April 19 dedication of the Oklahoma City National Memorial - held on the five-year anniversary of the bombing that left 168 dead - didn't get lost in the shuffle.

Executive director Kari Watkins called on about 50 members of the PRSA and the Association for Women in Communications to help coordinate activities commemorating the fifth anniversary of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building bombing. Events included a dedication ceremony with President Clinton, an academic symposium on terrorism prevention and a private memorial ceremony for survivors, rescue workers and families of the 168 victims.

A local committee, headed by Janette Gamba of Oklahoma City's Jordan & Associates and Southwestern Bell public affairs director Clark Bailey, played a pivotal role in organizing events. 'It was like having an outside agency,' Watkins said.

Public outreach has been at the forefront of the project since is inception.

A foundation raised more than 17 million dollars in private donations, along with 12 million dollars in government funding, to construct a memorial where the ruined building once stood.

PR staffers credentialed more than 1,200 members of the press for the memorial dedication, Watkins said, noting that reporters from Oklahoma City and Tulsa participated in the six-month planning process for the event. 'We tried to have a clear understanding with the media of how important our relationships with survivors and victims' families and rescue workers really are,' she explained.

Volunteers staffed a media center for three days and the local cable company provided pool video. While a handful of national news outlets grumbled about platform positioning, most reporters were satisfied with the set-up, according to Chad Huff, assignments manager at KWTV, Oklahoma City's CBS affiliate.

The memorial dedication was but one somber observance in a week rife with tragic anniversaries. A new Branch Davidian Church near Waco, TX was dedicated to memorialize 82 sect members killed two years to the day before the Oklahoma City bombing. 
 

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