Terror-Victim Allegiance CU Makes April 19 Memorial Plans
OKLAHOMA CITY - The memories for staffers at Allegiance Credit Union, the old Federal Employees CU, are still painful 10 years after the April 19 bomb blast at the Murrah Federal Building, but Allegiance management now prides itself on its leadership role for the series of city events at the Murrah memorial bomb site this month.
"Look, after what everybody in the credit union community has done for us, we feel we have something to give back now," said Florence Rogers, the retired CEO of Allegiance who has long relived the horrendous tale of being the only survivor of a management staff meeting at the time of the terror explosion on April 19, 1995. The $140 million Oklahoma City CU, which made its headquarters in the Murrah Building, lost 18 of its 33 staffers, and two volunteers and 15 employees were injured. One-hundred and twenty-five of its members were also killed.
"We have six survivors that still work with us and so we're very proud we've made contributions to the Second Decade Fund," declared Lynette Leonard, president/CEO of Allegiance making reference to a $10,000 contribution the CU gave to a citywide $15 million drive to help maintain the museum and the memorial "chair" exhibit on the Murrah site. Allegiance is also picking up the registration tab to sponsor runners and walkers for the April 24 Oklahoma City Memorial 5K Marathon with scores of employees at other Oklahoma City CUs slated to join the Allegiance staff.
"Our goal is to sponsor 168 participants which matches the 168 that were killed in 1995," said Leonard. In addition, Allegiance has put up a display in its lobby containing the photos of the lost employees and which depicts the often-photographed "fence" display of memorabilia at the Murrah site. The names of the deceased employees are also posted on a moving Allegiance Web site which also carries voice messages of survivors recalling where they were during the blast.
"How can I ever forget what credit unions across the country and in Oklahoma did for us during those difficult times. I even remember Fort Knox Credit Union in Kentucky flying in several planeloads of employees to keep us going," recalled Rogers, now 69 who after April 19 will retire as a trustee of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Foundation. Rogers said she is still undecided whether she will stay on as head of the Foundation's Conscience Committee which assists survivors and family members. But serving on the committee is Amy Petty, a FECU survivor and former loan officer, who is now a vice-president of operations at Allegiance.
"One of my roles is to try to get support and commitment from survivors for the Memorial Fund so we have the money to run a quality museum," explained Petty who was trapped for six and a half hours in the rubble before being rescued. She later spent eight days in a hospital. Petty's story is one of those on the Web site and in it she tells of the sensation of "being thrown and the sudden blackness."
Like others in Allegiance, she has been talking to other Oklahoma CUs about making contributions to the Memorial Fund with individual gifts coming directly from CUs and employees. One CU contributor to the Foundation Drive, Denise Floyd, president of Fort Sill FCU, said in 1995 she took her two young sons to the site just before the building was demolished "so they could see what terrorism had done, and now it is wonderful that the Foundation has kept it going for everyone to see."
Fort Sill FCU, located 90 miles from Oklahoma City, has contributed $1,000 to the Second Decade campaign with CU runners expected to join the Allegiance group on April 24. "Just like 9/11, it is important that we help preserve this site," said Floyd. In a recap of all its activities, Allegiance noted that it has taken out ad space in a newspaper "honoring the survivors, heroes and those who were lost" on April 19, 1995. In addition, noted Laurie Stratton, vice president, Allegiance employees will be wearing special t-shirts every Friday in April honoring the 18 employees who were killed.
"We will also hand out navy blue ribbons bearing the imprint `10 years and we have not forgotten,' " she said. The ribbons will also be handed out to members during the week before the anniversary. The Alliance summary concluded that "the tragedy of April 19, 1995 will forever be a part of our credit union history. Our goal is to cherish the memory and service of those who died in the bombing and everyone who helped in the rescue efforts. We also want to let the family members of those who died know that we have not forgotten them and that they are still in our thoughts and prayers."