Amy Downs: OKC Bombing Survivor and Author of Hope is a Verb
Meet today’s Dreamer and Doer, Amy Downs. Amy is a survivor of the bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building in 1995, which sparked a personal transformation for her both physically and mentally. This led her to write a book called Hope is a Verb where she encourages others to live life intentionally and aims to be a helping hand along the way.
Amy talks about what it was like after surviving the bombing, and having to tackle the grief of losing so many people she was close to, in addition to physical injuries and other psychological issues that remained. She fell three stories down and laid in the rubble for hours after the bombing where Amy reflected on all the things she wish she could do or redo, believing she was going to die; after being rescued and taking some of her first breaths of fresh air after the bombing, she recalls making a promise to herself and to God to never live her life the same. She remembers that moment feeling very powerful, because it was then she saw her life as a second chance, a feeling which she has drawn upon many times over the course of her life.
You are Not Alone
Comparing what life was like after the bombing to adapting to the COVID-19 pandemic, Amy talks about the importance of understanding you are not alone and knowing that even the people who look like they’re loving it may not be. She compares experiences like these to a rollercoaster where sometimes you press into the idea of a fresh start and developing new habits, where other times all you want is the old normal. This up and down is to be expected, but if you find yourself never having some of these high moments, think about what you’re filling your mind with because what you tell yourself is really powerful. If you don’t have the strength to, follow other strong thought leaders because sometimes we all need help.
Hope is a Verb
The idea for her book came to Amy a long time ago after reading a different book, which made her think about what you do after you’ve been through a powerful experience and how you could help someone else. The 1995 bombing was one of the first domestic terrorist attacks on American soil, which meant there weren’t a lot of people to go to for help, and Amy realized she could be the person on the other side of a terrible experience who was waving her hand to show others you can make it through. With the help of her nephew, this idea eventually came to fruition 10 years later.
Hope is having a goal and a pathway or community to help you reach that goal. We make goals all the time in both academic and career settings, but rarely do we treat personal goals the same by breaking them down into action steps and finding people who can hold us accountable. And what do you do after finishing a goal? Never stop dreaming. Even as you’re reaching that finish line, you need to start thinking about where the next start line is. Life is a journey, and it’s not meant to be complacent.
If I Had a Magic Wand…
This is a phrase Amy first heard from her boss and has continued to ask people throughout her life. The idea is to think about what you would want if you could have it in an instant, then dig a level deeper and figure out what tangible steps you can take in your current situation to actually get there.
The Power of Mentoring
While never having benefited from formal mentorship, Amy expresses how her mentors were formed more organically, as she looked around at the people in her life that she wanted to be more like. Doing so requires opening yourself up to be coachable, then engaging with them to figure out how they achieved something you also want to achieve. Sometimes, you have to put yourself out there to reach people in places you want to be, even if you don’t know them.
Middle School Advice
There’s a lot you can’t control. Life is never fair and sometimes bad things happen that aren’t your fault, but at a certain point you have to take responsibility for the thing that happened to you and figure out how you’re going to get through it. That’s how you move from surviving something to becoming a champion.
- Feelings of pain and suffering are not a unique burden, and you are not alone in your journey. Find people and stories that fill your mind with positivity because what you tell yourself matters.
- Hope is having a goal. Ask yourself what you would do if you had a magic wand and could have anything you wanted… then figure out what steps you can take in real life to get there. Once you’re there, find where you’re going next.
- Life is meant to be lived full out, and in order to do this, you have to be willing to step out of where you’re comfortable. Sometimes achieving goals means taking a risk, whether this means tackling something you fear you may not be able to accomplish or asking for help from a stranger.