No immediate changes are planned to the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon after two bombs exploded Monday near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, local officials said.
“We want to be careful in our decision making, not be knee-jerk, but make the right decision at the right time,” Kari Watkins, executive director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum, said in an afternoon news conference.
Friday marks the 18th anniversary of the April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.
Watkins was joined at the news conference by representatives of the city of Oklahoma City, Oklahoma City Police and Fire Departments, Emergency Medical Services Authority, those from the medical field and marathon race officials.
Police Capt. Dexter Nelson said security personnel from several jurisdictions attend the Oklahoma City marathon, which is scheduled for April 28. He said the number of security personnel continues to increase because the marathon continues to grow.
Nelson also said bomb technicians have always been assigned to the race.
“We obviously have a heightened awareness when this anniversary comes up, but especially when things are exploding around the country,” Nelson said. “We have no specific information here. We try to plan for the worst-case scenario.”
The explosions in Boston killed three and injured dozens of people Monday afternoon.
Police in Los Angeles, New York City, London and other cities worldwide stepped up security Monday after the explosions at the Boston Marathon. British police also said they were reviewing security plans for Sunday’s London Marathon.
Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett began Monday’s news conference at the national memorial by saying “our condolences, our sympathies and our prayers” are with those affected by what happened at the Boston Marathon.
“Obviously this time of the year on the calendar is a heightened alert in Oklahoma City, it has been for 18 years,” Cornett said. “The added concern over the last two hours has been that this event in Boston occurred at a marathon and we’re less than two weeks away from running a similar race by our standards in our city.
“I think as we all agree it is way too early to be drawing any conclusions on who’s behind these attacks in Boston and what impact, if any, that would have on the city of Oklahoma City and/or our race.”
Cornett said that as of the time of the news conference plans were to proceed with the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon as scheduled. He added that it was an “evolving situation” and they would review incoming information and make changes if necessary, noting that they are in ongoing contact with all levels of law enforcement.
Watkins said she and others were doing a walk-through for Friday’s 18th Anniversary Remembrance Ceremony at the national memorial when they began receiving news alerts about Boston.
Immediately she heard from various emergency and race officials who are among the thousands helping annually with the marathon.
“It sickens us that someone can’t go out and exercise and run a race and meet their own personal goals and be able to celebrate that,” Watkins said. “For us, and I think for the families and survivors, this race, the Memorial Marathon, has been memorable. It has been a way to celebrate to life, to keep life going forward to keep memories alive.
“We as a city have worked hard for the past 18 years to take a stand against terrorism and we won’t back down without a viable threat. We have been overwhelmed by the response from our runners who have said we will run to defy those trying to scare us.”
The Memorial Marathon is a qualifier for the Boston Marathon.
She said that while she thinks they have one of the best security plans possible for such an event, they will not put people in a position they don’t think they can control. Watkins strongly emphasized that although the marathon is the national memorial’s largest fundraiser “it is not near as important as life.”
“We will look at what changes, if any, we need to make,” she said.
Contributing: Staff Writer Bryan Dean and The Associated Press.