OKLAHOMA CITY – On April 19, 1995, Susan Walton walked into the Credit Union in the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City.
Those would be the last steps she would take on her own for more than five years.
Susan was among the victims buried alive.
“There were no people visible but you knew they had to be there so you just began digging.” Officer David Pennington said. “I was standing on top of a person trying to get her out.”
Officer Pennington rescued Susan, but didn’t recognize her in the hospital.
She was the most severely injured of those who survived the Oklahoma City bombing.
“Her face was very swollen, and so was the rest of her body. I said this wasn’t her,” Pennington remembered.
Susan was critically injured and couldn’t speak to identify herself.
Fortunately, she found an incredible way to help doctors notify her family when she couldn’t talk and her face was unrecognizable.
Susan knows sign language, and was able to sign her name for the doctors who then let her family know she survived.
While Susan lost so much after the explosion, she never lost her sense of humor.
“I thought they were going to scar badly. There go my chances of being Mrs. America,” Susan said of her injuries.
Susan and her husband Richard are just thankful she’s alive.
“She had a basal skull fracture, damage behind both eyes, a broken nose, and six fractures against each jaw line, a ruptured spleen, both legs were severely broken from the knees down,” Richard said.
The triage doctor never expected Susan to live.
“What I really thought about was the future and what it held for her. She was projected to not ever get out of a wheel chair,” Richard said.
But Susan’s willpower overshadowed all the projections.
She accomplished the seemingly impossible.
“The one thing that really worried me, was could I handle how well I was going to be. I knew I wouldn’t ever be 100 percent because I have missing body parts,” she said.
She has accepted her limitation, except for one.
“When I have had a pity party in the past, it was because they changed my nose. When I woke up, I didn’t quite look like myself anymore. But it’s not a bad nose and it works okay. So, I’ll live with it,” Susan said.
Now, 20 years after the bombing, Susan is facing new challenges.
“After 20 years, things are starting to fall apart again. So, they’re having to start rebuilding me all over again,” Susan said.
“The outside world doesn’t know the pain she goes through getting out of bed,” Richard said.
Susan’s business, Suited for Success, helps her focus on things other than her injuries.
She’s helped more than 80,000 women reentering the work force dress for their interviews.
“Between going to therapy every day and trying to talk people out of their clothes,” Susan said laughing. “I had my hands full. There just wasn’t a whole lot of time to think about myself.”
Susan says she lives each day with a goal.
“To be a good Christian woman, a good wife, a good grandmother and then give back to the world as much as I can,” she said. “I’m not through yet.”