Arlene Blanchard had nine days left in her contract with the U.S. Army when her office in the recruiting battalion, on the fourth floor of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, was shook. The April 19, 1995 bombing killed seven of her coworkers in the recruiting office and a friend’s child she held in her arms earlier that morning. In total, 168 people were killed that day.
Arlene survived the Oklahoma City Bombing, and later became the mother of two boys. Hunter is now 20, and Lawton is 16. On Sunday, her youngest will run 26.2 miles in her honor at the “Run to Remember,” the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon.
Lawton has never run a marathon before. He says thirteen miles is about the longest he has ever attempted. In fact, he and his mother have never attended the marathon. They usually make a point to watch it on television together each year.
“I try not to go down there too often,” Arlene said. “It is so powerful, and I am not big on large crowds.” She smiled, looked at her son and added, “But, I will be there for my son.”
She said being in the downtown area is tough for her. Lawton attends the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics (OSSM) near Lincoln and 10th street. She said visiting her son regularly has given her peace with the area and made the trip downtown a little easier.
Lawton remembers the first time his mother spoke to his middle school in Yukon. He introduced her.
“It’s hard to explain how important it was, and how much it impacted my life,” Lawton said. “Especially to people my age, because we weren't alive for it.”
Arlene said it was a moment she will never forget, her young son standing in front of the student body explaining what his mom went through. She now speaks to groups about bullying and the importance of taking care of one another.
“I want the next generation to understand how important it is to treat human beings like human beings. We are not animals,” Arlene said. “To see what I have said over the years having an impact on him, and bearing fruit, is just amazing to me as a mom.”
At this year’s OSSM convocation, the school’s founding chairman, Dr. Dan Little, challenged the students to put together a group to run the Marathon together. Arlene knew immediately her son would take up the challange.
Lawton was excited to tell his mom about his decision to register for the race. However, he wasn’t as enthusiastic to tell his dad.
“He’s more than a little bit worried, he’s very worried,” Lawton said.
His father Stan is concerned that his son will push himself too hard to finish the full race.
Arlene told her husband Lawton can quit any time he wants. However, that’s not something her youngest wants to think about.
This year’s race marks the 17th annual event. Kari Watkins, the Executive Director of the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum and race director estimates nearly 26,00o people are expected to compete in the full marathon, half marathon, 5k and kid’s race.
Arlene says although she isn’t fond of large crowds, the event makes her proud each year.
“We hear the saying ‘Oklahoma Standard,’ to know when people come here they walk away from Oklahoma with a different perspective and appreciation,” Arlene said. “It’s just fantastic to be in a place, to live in a place, that the country can follow after.”
The first runners cross the start line at 6:25 Sunday morning.
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