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Bombing survivor’s aim: ‘Make a difference in people’s lives’

OKLAHOMA CITY (BP)–The April 19, 1995, bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building cost Patti Hall more than just her job at the Federal Employees Credit Union. It cost her in terms of unimaginable suffering and financial setback. But, hardest of all, it deprived her of her identity.

“One of the things I’ve noticed is it’s hard for me to realize that I’m not part of what I used to be, such as when I was working,” said Hall, who attends Crossings Community Church in Oklahoma City. “That’s terribly hard, because you have to try to come up with things to fill the time up.”

She added quietly, “Most people forget you. The only time you’re remembered is when the anniversary comes up each year.”

Ten years after she suffered more than 40 broken bones and a collapsed lung when the bomb exploded as she was walking in the third floor hallway, Hall still struggles with “who” she is. Buried beneath the rubble of the building for about 45 minutes before rescuers dug her out, she now spends her time quietly trying to dig out from beneath the memories of 18 surgeries and anxiously pondering the prospect of another one.

“About four years ago, I really had a hard time, and I didn’t know what I was going to do with my life,” Hall reflected. “But, I pray constantly for God’s will in my life; whatever He wants me to do. I don’t know what that is. Maybe I’m doing it but don’t know it.”

The years of loneliness and pain have caused Hall to have what she calls “some crazy conversations” with God.

“Sometimes I get so mad at Him and yell, ‘How can You sit up there on that throne and look down while all of this is going on down here?’” she exclaimed.

“But, He tells me He is in control. Always. He tells me I need to take care of my own knittin’.”

Hall is still mystified why God let her live through the horror which claimed 168 lives.

“I talk to Him mainly about why He let me live,” she said. “It has been a mystery to me, and I talk to Him a lot about that still.

“I really hope I’m helping to make a difference in people’s lives. I don’t know what I’m expecting, if I’m expecting something or someone to step right out and say, ‘Hey, I’m the reason.’

“But, I know in my heart that it’s for Him. I never doubt that.”

Hall has become a champion for victims’ rights. She was a featured speaker three years ago at the 21st Annual National Forum on Victim Rights and said she plans to accept an invitation to tell her story on video for the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

As one of 800 people whose names are etched in granite on the Survivors’ Wall at the downtown memorial, Hall said it has been very difficult saying goodbye to friends who have died through the years, in addition to the 18 fellow employees killed in the explosion.

“It’s tough. I’ve had to go to a lot of funerals, and that makes me question it all sometimes,” she said. “But I just have to say, ‘OK, you know God is stronger than you are. He is in control whether you think it’s right or not, whether you like it or not.’”

So, she stays busy volunteering with several organizations, going to church and visiting her 85-year-old mother, Leota Perkins, in a local retirement home.

“Mother is so precious,” Hall said. “She is in a wonderful place, and I go see her just about every day.”

Hall is an active member of the Salvation Army’s women’s auxiliary, a member of the Christian Women’s Luncheon Club and the local Orchestra League.

She chairs the auxiliary’s “Basket of Love” through which the ladies deliver small gifts, such as bottles of lotion, to residents of area nursing homes or to hospital patients. One of the most satisfying “duties” of her Orchestra League membership was recently going to a local elementary school to teach third-graders about musical instruments.

“That was wonderful,” she exclaimed.

But all that “going” proves difficult. Hall uses a cane to help walk on the days her pain is intense, while shuffling slowly on the “good days.”

She is still trying to decide whether to have another operation, this time to remove the steel rod surgeons placed in her left ankle four years ago.

“The doctor thinks I can do without the rod, but I’m trying to get the nerve up to go through the pain again,” she said.

Besides the physical pain, Hall has dealt for almost seven years with trying to pay off attorneys who “helped” her obtain worker’s compensation payments as a result of the explosion which cost her her job.

She fired her first attorney because “he tried to force me into taking a settlement that wasn’t in my best interest.”

The second attorney was “wonderful and excellent,” she said, but a judge awarded the two lawyers a total of $22,000 between them.

“I have been paying that off for about seven years, and still owe them around $4,000,” she said.

Despite all the hardships, Hall’s life is punctuated by laughter. As much as her knees, legs and ankles hurt, she laughed, “I can always tell when the weather’s going to change!”

She also loves to visit with friends, often meeting them for lunch at a local cafeteria.

“I’m not going to tell you every day is a glorious day; it isn’t,” she said. “When I hurt real, real bad, it’s hard to get out of bed. But what I do now is just stay there and read a book.

“It’s not every day, but there are days when I think I should be doing more and something of more importance. But, you know, I’m so lucky; I don’t have to go to the doctor all the time and I’m doing pretty good.”
Bob Nigh is managing editor of Oklahoma Baptists’ newsjournal, the Baptist Messenger, online at www.baptistmessenger.com.

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  • Bob Nigh