At 9:22 a.m. on April 19, 1995, everything changed for Federal Employees Credit Union (FECU) in Oklahoma City.
What started as a normal day for those at the credit union within the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building ended in a horrific attack that killed nearly 200 people, including 18 credit union employees and 100 members.
Twenty-five years later, Allegiance Credit Union (formerly FECU) stands strong and continues to serve the Oklahoma City community. The story of Allegiance’s resiliency in the face of adversity is as important today as the nation faces a time of crisis.
After the attack, Amy Downs, president/CEO, and Terri Talley, business development officer, were buried in rubble 20 feet from each other. Of the credit union’s 33 employees, they were two of 15 survivors.
Local credit union leaders quickly banded together to assist FECU.
“We had a teller training room in our building set up like a small branch, and we were running the same computer system as FECU,” says Matt Stratton, senior vice president of marketing at Tinker Federal Credit Union in Oklahoma City, and the spokesperson for FECU after the bombing. “We offered the room as a branch, and some office space for the FECU management team.”
Incredibly, the branch opened within 48 hours.
After taking time to heal, Downs and Talley returned to work at the credit union, citing their strong connection to co-workers and members.
“We were there to serve our members, and they needed us more than ever,” Downs says. “With 100 members losing their lives in the bombing, those families needed us to help access their accounts, pay their bills, etc. It wasn’t just a job anymore; it was so much more than that.”
While she thought about leaving the credit union, Tally says it was her source of comfort.
“Those members weren’t just people to me, they were like family and I couldn’t abandon them at the time when they needed me,” she says. “The family members of those we lost gravitated to us because it was a source of comfort for them, and it was a good feeling to be that comfort for them.”
The national credit union system also came together during this time. The CEO of the former Fort Knox Federal Credit Union (now Abound Credit Union) in Radcliff, Ky., asked for volunteers to work at the new FECU branch because they used the same operating system. They immediately sent 12 employees, followed by another team later.
Over the following 42 days, 22 credit unions sent 58 people to work at the FECU branch.
“The most memorable thing was walking into the temporary branch the first day it opened and seeing so many different credit unions represented,” Stratton says. “The employees all wore shirts from their own credit unions. It was a bit like watching an all-star game with players from many teams joining forces to play one game as a very special team.
“It was heartwarming and heartbreaking to see FECU members come in mostly just to see who from FECU was there and ask about those who were not there.”
NEXT: Cooperation among cooperatives