Stateline Story

America Under Fire: Indiana Gov. Frank O'Bannon

When they assumed office, none of the state governors could have anticipated the kinds of problems and challenges they've faced since last September 11.

Stateline.org is publishing their reflections on their role in America's war with terrorism. In this installment, Indiana Gov. Frank O'Bannon talks about his response to the attacks and the recent anthrax scare in his state.

Stateline.org: How have the attacks and the events since changed the way Americans view their own security?

O'Bannon: Like citizens in every state and many countries throughout the world, the events of September 11 stunned Hoosiers and caused them to be more aware of the dangers that exist in the world. Many countries have had to deal with terrorism at home for centuries; Americans have been fortunate to have had few brushes with these evil acts. Since September 11, though, we all have realized that none of us are truly safe from the threats of terrorism. Most of us have resumed our normal schedules, but we are more on guard than we have ever been.

Stateline.org: What impact has it had on you as a political leader and how you fulfill your responsibilities as governor?

O'Bannon: As Governor, the safety of the citizens of Indiana has always been one of my top responsibilities. The terror attacks increased the need for me to both reassure Hoosiers that they are safe but to increase the efforts we already had underway to ensure that safety. In response to the attacks, we established the Counter Terrorism and Security Council to provide a central clearinghouse for information sharing and gathering. The Council works with local, state and federal law enforcement, emergency responders, health, transportation and other officials whose duties involve prevention of crime and response to emergency situations. Our law enforcement officials and others are operating at high security levels and we are evaluating whether we need to do more.

Stateline.org: Have you noticed any change in the way your constituents now view the role of government in their lives?

O'Bannon: Our citizens, generally, seem to have retained their faith in their elected officials. We recently dealt with an anthrax scare at a facility in Indianapolis where postal equipment is cleaned and repaired. Despite national and local media reports of contamination, our citizens were calm and waited for official word about the rumors they were hearing. That ordeal showed us where we needed to work, specifically in communications with our federal officials, and where our security network worked well. Hoosiers now look to government for actions to prevent terrorism, to respond to attacks, and to keep them safe.