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Oklahoma Gov. Keating: Listening important part of rebuilding

(CNN) -- Oklahoma Gov. Frank Keating led the state's response to the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

He talked to CNN on Wednesday about the challenges New York's leaders will face once the rebuilding process begins.

CNN: I want to get your personal thoughts here as you've watched all the attention on New York City and on Mayor [Rudy] Giuliani and other leaders in that state, there must be a sense of flashback for you.

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KEATING: Well, there is, and I have to give Rudy a great deal of credit. He's brought together the various elements of the New York community. He has made sure that the rescue-and-recovery effort is moving at pace. He's reassured New Yorkers. These are things you can't prepare for but he's done them with extraordinary courage and, for Rudy, even grace. It's really been quite remarkable. And I've kidded some of my Oklahoma friends, and I said the stereotypical New Yorker is no longer there, those really are loving and caring people. So he has done a great job. So has George Pataki, the governor.

CNN: Help us understand. As we watch the mayor and as we watch the president, on the one hand you have the urgent task, rescue and recovery, on the other hand you're trying to think about rebuilding. In the case of the president you're also deploying military troops overseas, trying to console the nation. How as a leader do you prioritize and shift through the many challenges that you face?

KEATING: Well, obviously, many of us have authority and responsibility that others don't have. In the case of mayor, he's focused on rescue and recovery, rebuilding his city. The next step, of course, after he rescues and recovers is to determine what to do with the site. How do you bring in, as we did in Oklahoma City, literally thousands of people for their guidance and advice as to how to address what in effect is a sacred place, because there are a lot of people that will never be found.

And how do you rebuild the city commercially and yet be sensitive spiritually and morally to the real concerns, the very thin skin that will exist for a long time? A lot of people will be grieving forever, and that's very, very tough.

In the president's case he's been able to embrace the country, move the country in the direction of identifying who did it, and making sure that they never do it again. And of course, the next and most challenging thing what Tom Ridge has been called upon to do. We governors, we know how to address earthquakes and floods and tornadoes, but we know nothing about sarin gas, and these are the kind of things that a homeland security focus will be able to bring to our attention and make sure that we're prepared for the very worst. It's going to take a lot of leaders, not just one.

CNN: What are your thoughts on the healing process, sir? I had the good fortune of being able to come down to Oklahoma City for the dedication of the memorial there, it's quite a site. Do you think that something like that is necessary in New York City now, at the site of the World Trade Center?

KEATING: Well, Gale Norton, the secretary of the interior, called me last week and we talked about it, how all of this was done. Of course I'm prejudiced. I think that Rudy Giuliani, as that superb mayor of New York, should be the chair of that effort to determine what should be done, because you do have commercial interest as well as family interests to balance.

We did it, I think, very well in Oklahoma City. We brought everybody to the table, literally thousands of people, to make sure that we listened to everyone. And my suggestion is to do the same. It doesn't have to be done overnight, but this is a terrible place that we'll remember for terrible things, but also a place of courage and heroism.

People like Ray Downing, my friend, the chief that has yet to be found, and all those wonderful firefighters and police officers who gave their lives, fellow Americans who gave their lives. I mean, this was an attack on our country; those in effect were combatants, if you will -- noncombatants, but still Americans who were attacked because they're Americans.

And I think this is a process that will take the inclusion of lots of people to work it through. Listening is the best process and the best protocol right now.


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