By Carol Mowdy Bond
On the beautiful spring morning of April 19th, 1995, U.S. Army Sgt. Arlene Blanchard was working in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building when the building exploded.
She was sitting at her desk, facing north against an all-glass wall, when the infamous truck bomb detonated on the building’s north side.
An Ohio native who had lived in Oklahoma since 1993, Blanchard was a Yukon resident. She had celebrated her first wedding anniversary on April 2nd. And she was a fitness fanatic who always ran up the four flights of stairs to her office, rather than taking the elevator.
Blanchard had nine days left to serve as an Army Personnel Sergeant with the Army Recruiting Battalion, before returning to civilian life. When she arrived that morning, Sergeant Titsworth, Blanchard’s replacement, was already in the office. His wife and two young daughters were with him. After meeting them and chatting, Blanchard sat down at her desk.
“An explosion convulsed the entire nine-story building,” Blanchard said. “My whole body began to shake as I felt the force of the explosion coursing through me like an electrical current. The ceiling above me began to collapse. Debris, bricks, and glass were flying everywhere. I lost my sight and was in darkness. I screamed for help just before losing consciousness.”
When she came to, Blanchard screamed but no one helped her. A few minutes later, she regained sight and jumped up, trying to run toward the exit. But there was no place to go. Fifteen feet to her left was a gaping hole across the entire front of the building. The building’s nine floors had pancaked, and that area later became known as “the pit.”
Blanchard heard her supervisor’s voice, trying to calm her. He placed Blanchard in a chair. Then he began calling roll. But no one answered.
She then heard Sgt. Titsworth’s wife calling for her little girls, but they didn’t answer. Of their two little daughters, the younger one perished that day.
As Blanchard looked around, she saw some of her coworkers in horrible pain from their grotesque injuries.
A coworker led Blanchard out of the building. She describes how he, “took my trembling hand in his and started leading me out of the building. We followed the trails of blood made by the wounded who had gone ahead of us.”
“We lost nine people in our office,” Blanchard said. “On that day, 171 people – including three unborn children – lost their lives.”
After the tragedy, Blanchard and her husband added two sons to their family. Both are now young adults. As well, Blanchard became a public, inspirational and Christian speaker. From 2011 to 2016, she spoke to Yukon sixth graders and middle school students about the bombing and character qualities.
Due to the current pandemic, the ceremony for the 25th anniversary of the April 19th bombing will be held in virtual fashion, with numerous ways people may safely watch from their homes. The one-hour ceremony will be broadcast 9 a.m. Sunday, April 19. As usual, the names of all 168 people who perished will be read. Of more than 20 individuals, Blanchard was invited to read some of the names for the ceremony, which was previously filmed.
With an infectious zest for life and an outgoing personality, Blanchard’s Christian faith has remained her strength. Always an encouraging person, she continues to speak publicly, and is now writing a book.