Bombing Survivor To Run OKC Memorial Marathon

Fifteen years after the Oklahoma City bombing, emotions still run high for Oklahomans.  Survivors have moved on with their lives, but have never forgotten their friends, and loved ones, who died the day Timothy McVeigh parked a Ryder truck filled with an ammonium nitrate bomb in front of the Murrah Federal Building.

Amy Petty is one of those survivors. Her story, and her second chance at life, are nothing less than incredible.

"April 19th started out just like today, it was just a beautiful, typical spring morning in Oklahoma," recalls Amy Petty. "I was sitting at my desk and getting ready to ask the girl next to me what she needed because she'd stopped in to see me and I don't know if the words came out or not. Because that's when the bomb went off.  I just felt and heard this tremendous roaring, and I felt I was falling, and I actually was, I was actually falling three floors.

"I was actually still in my chair. I could hear people screaming, I could hear the building coming down, I knew that whatever was happening was serious, I knew that my life was over. I was screaming, Jesus help me, Jesus help me, then all of a sudden everything was quiet and I couldn't hear the screaming any more, I tried to call out but I didn't hear any replies, it was really hard to breathe.

"I was actually buried alive, basically under about ten feet of rubble."

Amy has shared her story dozens of times.  Over the years, it's gotten easier.  But the impact doesn't change.

"It was probably about 45 minutes later that the men were in there looking for the daycare area, I heard them saying they were looking for the babies. As soon as I heard their voices I started screaming, and one of the men said, 'I hear you child, how old are you?' I said, I'm sorry, I'm 28 and he said that's okay.

"They couldn't see me, they had to follow the sound of my voice.  I was really stuck and buried underneath a lot of rubble," Amy remembers.

Brick by brick, her rescuers worked to free her.

"They began working, it took about six and a half hours to actually get me out."

Six and half agonizing hours.

"I began thinking about my life and all of a sudden things that I thought were important weren't important. I remember I didn't have children and I remember thinking that maybe I did want to have a child."

Amy worked at the Federal Employees Credit Union, housed in the Murrah Federal Building.

"I remember when they pulled me out, looking around and thinking it looked like something out of a movie, so surreal," she says.

She didn't know it at the time, but 18 of her co-workers died that day.

"My best friend had 2-year, 3-year-old baby girls at home, they lost their mom."

More than a week in the hospital, and months of physical therapy, Amy spent time in a wheelchair, then, used a walker. She says her injuries paled in comparison to what she learned after the bombing.

"I had injuries but I think the most difficult thing for me was dealing with the grief and the loss of everything.  I'll also never forget that feeling of having a second chance because I really thought that I was going to die."

A second chance, that changed her life.

"There were several dark years after the bombing where it was just trying to get through each day, but I still have always gone back to that moment in time where I really thought my life was over," Amy says.

She's shed an astonishing 180 pounds, and took up exercise.

"I really don't want to have those regrets that I had the first time that I thought my life was over," she says.

Amy and several of her co-workers who survived, are running in the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.  They're training for the half-marathon.  She and others will run more than thirteen miles on April 25.

"Last year I worked the finish line. And it was amazing. It was the most emotional experience. And I knew right then, I want to do this, I want to do this in honor, and in memory of those people we lost."

Amy knows there will be bumps along the way, haunting reminders.

"We did a long run actually on the marathon course. It was very difficult, I was running very slow, I was running by myself. So I'm feeling very emotional. I'm thinking I don't have another mile in me, and I look up, and I see the banner, they placed banners around town, one in honor of each person that was killed. And I look up and I see a banner for Victoria Texter, my boss, my mentor, an incredible woman, and I look up and I see her banner.  She had a son, and he lost his mom. That pain goes on forever, that pain of me running this marathon is temporary. I thought okay, dig in, you can do this," says Amy.

"Our credit union sponsors a water stop at the five mile mark. And 2 of our volunteers this year are actually the 2- and 3-year-old baby girls that are now beautiful teenagers, that were daughters of my best friend."

Spring time is perfect for running.  But for Amy and her co-workers, now in a new building, with a new name, Allegiance Credit Union, complete with a fountain and garden dedicated to the 18 people who died, spring is a time of remembrance, and reflection.

"Something within you, spring days, the redbuds are blooming and the trees are leafing out, it just stirs something within you and this time of year is difficult," explains Amy. "I think the running has helped give me a focus, this training has given me a little bit of a focus and maybe taken the edge off this year.  I want the family members of those that we lost to know that we have not forgotten them, they are not forgotten."

Amy Petty did have a child, a son, now ten.  The Memorial Marathon, Run to Remember, is April 25th, through Oklahoma City.