Amy Downs, one of the last people dragged alive from the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, is usually concerned around this time of year as the April 19th anniversary approaches.
The native Shreveporter regularly leaves her Oklahoma City home in April to escape the post-traumatic stressors of the deadliest terrorist attack in United States history. Your goal this year? Cycle Zydeco, which started on Wednesday and continues through Acadiana all weekend.
“The season is difficult,” said Downs. “Whenever the weather turns spring-like, I get nervous, irritable, anxious. I don’t even feel like thinking about the bombing. It’s just one thing that happens, and it’s not just me. It happens to a lot of people . Now, 26 years later, I’m just trying to plan it. “
This isn’t the first time Downs, 54, has participated in Cycle Zydeco. She has traveled twice to attend the South Louisiana Festival on Wheels, which she thinks is her favorite bike race in the country.
“Zydeco isn’t even in the same stadium as every other tour I’ve done and I’ve done tons of it,” Downs said. “Everyone who’s done Zydeco will tell you the same thing. They take care of you. It’s like a party. It’s a great time. It’s about the music, the food and the fun. We adorn our helmets. It embodies, so to speak, “Life is” short. Live it out. ‘”
Downs lived a life different from the inspiring one she leads today when anti-government extremists used explosive-filled trucks to blow up the federal building where she worked.
She was only 28 years old at the time and was working as a loan officer at a federal credit union. Years earlier, she had dropped out of college at LSU Shreveport and ended a relationship. After that, she decided to start over in Oklahoma City, where her sister lived. However, at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing, it was not exactly successful.
“I just kind of floated through life,” said Downs. “And I just remember thinking it didn’t really feel. I remember looking up at the sky, taking that fresh breath and waiting for help, just thinking that I really don’t want to live my life that way . I don’t want to just float. “
Downs remembers negotiating for her life with God as she waited for help among charred rubble. She promised that if she could only survive, she would find meaning and enjoy life to the full.
It was pulled out of the rubble six hours after the bombing. It would take much longer to recover from the physical, emotional, and mental strain of surviving an attack that killed at least 168 people, including more than half of their employees.
“Almost 15 hours after it first aired on the news, I saw the infamous helicopter shot of the collapsed and burned building,” Downs wrote in a book. “The offices I had worked in for the past seven years were empty. The large pile of nine pancake shells sped out onto the street with upturned cars, broken glass, insulation, and torn clothes. 168 people scrolled the names of 168 people in white letters, who were still missing or confirmed dead. I recognized a few dozen names as my friends at (the credit union). “Please let someone find them,” I said over and over. I have at least a hundred names other than members of the (Credit Union) One hundred delighted faces as I took their paychecks “Oh God,” I prayed when daycare details were revealed, “Please save the children.”
Downs later became a mom, went back to college, earned a master’s in business administration, lost £ 200, completed an Ironman triathlon, and became CEO of the same credit union she was working for at the time of the bombing.
Their unlikely success story has been the subject of presentations and a TED talk. It is also the subject of a new book entitled “Hope is a Verb: My Journey of Impossible Transformation”.
It wasn’t an overnight transformation.
The first three years after the bombing were dark, depressing, and focused on surviving from one moment to the next. It was about survivor’s guilt, post-traumatic stress disorder, blinding fear, and the testimony during the trial. The consequences of the bombing did not only take place while she was awake. It also infiltrated her dreams at night.
Eventually, however, Downs would find hope in small tasks. She could look up the phone number and someday get her log from LSU Shreveport. She could call the next day and ask for a copy. She could look for universities and colleges that would accept her grade point average of 0.50 the next day. And on and on and on.
“If you’re not careful, you end up drifting through life,” Downs said. “You really only have to practice five minutes a day and ask yourself, ‘What would my day be like today if I had a wand?’ And then you dial it back and say, ‘Hey, given my current situation and that I have to work within current boundaries, what small steps can I take towards this picture of what I really want for my life?’ “