The Barrett trip to Oklahoma City was so eye-opening and amazing. I didn’t realize how prevalent the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings were to the community and how it still affects them today, especially since I was so young at the time and it isn’t taught all over schools.

Friday morning, I opened up a copy of Norman Living, a magazine I found inside our suites. The letter from the editor in chief talked about the 10th annual marathon fundraiser. “Life moves quickly. Our spirit remains invincible,” she said.

That day we had an incredible opportunity to interview Mike Boettcher, an esteemed veteran CNN correspondent, credited for creating the terrorism unit at the network and covering the global epidemic of terrorism. He was later inducted into the Oklahoma City Hall of Fame and gave a keynote speech.

Boettcher told us all about his background in journalism, joining CNN, and the poignant moment when he learned about the Oklahoma City bombings. He said it was “gut-wrenching” to see his hometown and all the people he knew. He had seen terrorism everyone and thought we were immune, but said we are not.

“Terrorists can be white and Christian, not just Muslim,” Boettcher noted.

When he went to the site, he could smell death, something he would never forget. He said that it will stick with him forever.

Boettcher also had the amazing opportunity to interview McVeigh before his trial when he was in jail. He noted that McVeigh was calm, respective and polite until Boettcher questioned him about the government and he became enraged and aggressive.

It was chilling to hear Boettcher say that he believed we were on the “cusp of another Oklahoma City” and the threat still exists. He mentioned that hate groups have grown from ’95,even though they declined after the bombings. “They are now back with a vengeance,” he said.

The polarized society and having a black president are examples that Boettcher pointed out to this tense mood.

Boettcher then told us more about his experiences like when he as kidnapped in El Salvador and also reporting on al-Qaeda, the 9/11 attacks and being embedded in Afghanistan. He even told us about bin Laden was doing at the time of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, which is something he guaranteed us we wouldn’t know (which of course, he was right.)

This was nothing like a history book or reading news-listening to him was getting deeper and more intimate details and boy, is Boettcher a great storyteller. I learned how hard and risky it is to cover terrorism and deal with different governments, covert information and intelligence agencies. There were things he told us not to share about his sources and such, so I have to respect his wishes and leave out those parts.

He said he was working on a documentary called “Day Too Soon” before the 9/11 attacks and he felt heartsick that it was too late to air it in order to warn of the coming threat of a potential domestic terror attack. It was moving and so inspiring to be in the presence of an individual who has dedicated is life to helping people and stopping the death of innocent people, especially because he feels it is his duty, even though he honestly couldn’t have stopped it alone.

The interview ended with Boettcher summing up what his life’s mission is:to figure out what motivates people to commit terrorism, because it’s something he knows up close and personal as a victim of it.

“It can come indifferent forms, for different reason but it is one of the most overriding factors in your life,” he said.

The second person we interviewed was the executive director of the Memorial Institute for the Prevention of Terrorism, David Cid. The institute is dedicated to studying terrorism and training police officers to address the issues related to terrorism and keeping our citizens safe. According to their website, “MIPT trains the line officer in information gathering techniques to enhance the quality and quantity of reporting.”

Cid’s definition of terrorism was “violence used to further political or social agenda.” He said that works domestically but it gets a little less clear internationally, bringing the oft-spoken phrase one man’s freedom fighter is one man’s terrorist.

The institute is focused on domestic terrorism and how to prevent militancy, working to closely identify warnings signs and indicators. The indicators of terrorist like behavior Cid mentioned were aytpical, focused on behavior rather than religion or nationality.

Cid said he didn’t know how much better we are to prevent in attack, but agencies are cooperating more with information an training police helps. They want to strike a balance because no one wants a Gestapo. there needs to be probable cause and a warrant, but he said if we put too many blocks for police it creates inefficiencies that prevent them from stopping people from die. He said there is a constant need to recalibrate and question how we perceive threats, saying 9/11 was a perception and underestimation of the threat of al-Qaeda.

“It helps to divide those whose actions we don’t agree with and those who are a threat,” Cid said, in order to keep on moral ground while investigating terrorism.

In regards to addressing foreign terrorism, Cid said sanctions, military and a combination of foreign policies and aid can reduce the factors that lead those in the world to think of terrorism.