OKC Bombing Survivor Shares Story With One Of A Kind Sweater
OKLAHOMA CITY - Priscilla Salyers was inside her office at the U.S. Customs division of the Murrah Federal Building when a bomb went off at 9:02am, on April 19, 1995.
She was buried under a pile of rubble for more than four hours after falling five stories down. She remembers every moment from the bomb that she said sounded like a sonic boom, to the smoke filled fall.
She suffered a punctured lung and numerous cuts and bruises.
It was a miracle rescue workers found her and that she even survived. But like the survivor tree she used to see out her window, she did. And created a survivor's sweater that now tells her story.
The handmade sweater has traveled all over the United States and Canada with former Oklahoma City Police Chaplain Jack Poe. But it was knitted lovingly by hand by Salyers herself.
"I call it my victory sweater," said Salyers. "I didn't plan it I just took it piece by piece."
Though she hadn't knitted since the bombing, she was inspired to do so during the trials of Tim McVeigh. She said while listening to everyone's victim impact statements she discovered so many people had lost their passion to do things they used to love. For her it was losing her passion to knit.
So, she decided to change that stitch by stitch. In fact, some of the yarn in the sweater was actually found in a basket that workers discovered in the rubble.
"I was always knitting and I had a heart shaped basket in my office," said Salyers. "After the bombing, some of the agents went up to the office and they found the basket. It was all misshaped and they found the yarn and one of them started gathering it and the other said "she's not going to want that – it's so dirty". And they said no, this is hers. And so they brought it to me and I was so excited to see it!"
Each item on the sweater has special meaning. From the tiny charms and buttons she attached to the make shift silver threaded fence - to knitting "We Will Never Forget" - the saying that became the mantra for the nation.
Each heart represents a life that was lost. Including two of her coworkers.
"There were two agents in the office with me, Paul Ice and Claude Medearis, and they died," said Salyers. "So I thought they belonged right up here on the sleeve next to my guardian angel that I made."
On the front, she knitted the survivor's tree with green yarn found in the rubble. And then there are the symbolic teddy bears and angels and ribbons that were given to victims and survivor's families in the days after the bombing.
"The bear was very meaningful because I was in the hospital when President Clinton came and they gave out the bears," said Salyers. "And my boys went and got me one and brought it to me."
But Salyers said the sweater and its story are far from finished. She still wants to put eyes on the bear and add a few charms to the back. And touch a few more lives.
"If I can reach one person, that's what I am about," said Salyers.
The Smithsonian has even asked to display Salyers memorial sweater, but Salyers said she's not ready to part with it just yet. She said one day she may give it to the Oklahoma City National Memorial for all to see.