Rebuilding Your Life Out of the Rubble with Amy Downs

Episode 01

This week we are kicking off a brand new series here on the For the Love Podcast. There are so many times in each of our lives where a curveball just knocks us on our backs. The unexpected transition from what you thought was going to happen to your new reality is often hard to grapple with. But sometimes, we choose to make a major life change. So we’ll talk through all the ways we can embrace a transition. We’ll seek guidance from people who have made those transitions, learned from the struggle, and benefited from going through the process.  Amy Downs epitomizes what it means to be thrown unwittingly into a situation that could have had a profoundly negative affect on her life, only to come out leading the charge for some amazing changes in her life. Amy is a survivor of the Oklahoma City Bombing–the last living person to be found under the rubble that claimed 168 souls that day. Amy’s outlook changed dramatically, and the 350 lb overweight college dropout with an attitude that she’d never amount to much used this experience to reclaim each area of her life by turning it around for the better. She and Jen talk about the horror of that day and how sometimes it’s possible to literally emerge from the rubble of our lives to take small steps toward healing and change.

Episode Transcript

Hey, everybody. Jen Hatmaker here, your host of the For the Love Podcast. Welcome to the show. Exciting day today because we are starting a new series called For the Love of Transitions. When the podcast team and I put our heads together to brainstorm, where do we want to go next, every single one of us, and we’re in incredibly different stages of life, in different parts of the country, and every one of us was going through some sort of transition.

Some of them were transitions we are choosing or have chosen. Some have been chosen for us. Of course, culturally, right now we are in a space where we are collectively transitioning from a year of a pandemic, slowly back to life. What does that look like? What does it mean? We still have a lot of question marks around this. Tons of us are emerging having transitioned inside a transition, because a year of COVID has deeply affected our jobs, our families, our relationships, our rhythms.

And so, we have this sense that we really needed to tackle this idea of, what do we do in the shift, whatever the shift is. How do we hold our center? What do we learn? What do we leave behind? What do we reach for? And so, we have put together an incredible series with incredible guests to walk us through all sorts of transitions that most of us are finding ourselves inside of somewhere. And so, as we kick off that series today, I want us to think about the way that life can be changed and impacted by choices that weren’t in our control, by choices that were literally born out of tragedy or trauma.

I, of course, identify with this so deeply, alongside all of you, my beloved community. Just the suffering that we endured together. Obviously, you know that I lost a 26-year marriage last summer. It’s been, well, I mean, the most traumatic experience in my life. And so, I have absolutely lived this conversation. What now? Everything is shifting. What do I do immediately? What do I do in the short term? What about the long-term, if I can even dare to think of it? Everything is in transition, everything.

And so, I was really excited to start this series with today’s guest because there is this question on the table that applies to so many of us for a million different reasons, which is how you begin to uncover your path forward after a tragedy. Your life, in whatever way, was turned upside down. And what you thought was happening, what you thought was going to happen, is no longer on the table. How do you come back from that, especially when what you believed about yourself, what you believed about your circumstances has irrevocably changed?

Do you go back to who you were before? Do you take this set of circumstances and build off of it to change everything that you’ve ever done? What do you do? How do you recover? Is there a gift embedded in every tragedy? Our guest this week went through something that altered her life forever. I was actually 30 miles away when it happened. I was in college. I was a junior at Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee the day that the Oklahoma City bombing happened.

Today we’re talking to the absolutely incredible Amy Downs, a survivor of the bombing that day at 28 years old. I remember that time, I mean, we all do. But living in Oklahoma at the time, 30 minutes away from the bombing, which reverberated all the way to Shawnee.  I can remember me and all my friends, all the students, the entire campus just huddled around all of our TV sets for days. I can still remember that shock in our bodies.

Amy Downs is a survivor of that day. She is now a CEO. She is an author. She is a motivational speaker, and you’ll see why. She’s an ironman triathlete. I don’t want to steal her thunder. I’m going to let her tell the story. But the day that she walked into the Murrah building on the day of the bombing, how she was, where she was, her state of mind, her body, her space in the world, was the exact opposite of where she is today.

She rebuilt her life literally out of the rubble, and it is profoundly inspiring. This word is going to sound a bit ordinary in that she’s an ordinary person who had a tragedy happen to her outside of her ability to choose it. And yet, as this regular person, it was such an impetus for change in her life. Wait till you hear it. You’re going to be inspired today. You really are. I am. I’m still sitting here reeling from listening to her tell her story.

She’s a real light in the world. I can’t wait for you to meet her, and I’m happy that you’re here. So whatever you bring to the table today, whatever trauma, whatever tragedy or loss, however life has kicked the hell out of you, this is your episode today. I hope that this leaves you in a space of possibility. And so, with that, I’m so pleased to bring you our first guest in the transitions series. 

Welcome with me to the show, Amy Downs.



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