Youngest OKC bombing survivor becomes avionics technician at Tinker as ‘my way of helping out’

  • Published
  • By Clayton Cummins
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Twenty-nine years have passed since one of the darkest days in Oklahoma history. On April 19, 1995, ex-Army Soldier Timothy McVeigh parked a rented truck in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in downtown Oklahoma City. At 9:02a.m., McVeigh detonated a powerful bomb inside that truck turning what was a peaceful downtown block into a warzone.

PJ Allen, an aviation technician at Tinker Air Force Base, was just 18 months old when his grandmother dropped him off at the America’s Kids Daycare located in the Murrah Building on that fateful day. At the time Allen’s grandmother, Delores Watson, was working up the road when the bombing occurred.

The explosion killed 168 people, 19 of the victims were children. Over 300 nearby buildings were damaged or destroyed and dozens of vehicles were reduced to ashes.

Once first responders arrived on scene, Allen’s body was found in the middle of the street. He was rushed to the hospital.

“It took my family a few days to find me, at first they were told I was dying,” said Allen.

On an instinct, Watson, went to OU Children’s Hospital in an attempt to find her grandson.

“(My grandmother) saw a baby wrapped in bandages and the only thing that was exposed was my belly button,” said Allen. “That was all she needed; she immediately knew it was me. Sure enough, it was me and luckily, I had been taken to the hospital and given care that I needed to survive.”

Allen was one of six children inside the daycare to survive the blast, but he was seriously hurt. He suffered from second- and third-degree burns over half of his body, a collapsed lung, a broken arm in multiple places and severe head injuries. At age 11, doctors were able to finally remove a tracheotomy that assisted his collapsed lung.

Allen is on the brink of turning 31-years-old. Since the bombing, he’s developed a passion for aviation and made it a personal goal to work at Tinker AFB. That goal was fulfilled when Allen became an Aviation Technician in September 2023, working on the KC-135.

Part of the inspiration in working for the Air Force, Allen says, was to give back to the numerous Airmen that responded to the scene of the bombing and assisted with recovery efforts afterwards.

“Obviously due to my injuries, I can’t easily join the military or any branch because I was hurt so bad,” said Allen.” When I was blown up, I know the Air Force was one of the organizations that did a lot to help the survivors and help with the efforts. Working on my planes is like my way of helping out. I enjoy it.”

“I think it’s amazing, he seems to really enjoy it,” said Peter Vierps, Allen’s supervisor at the 564th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. “I see him next year being fully qualified and actually being the one to start training people.”

Despite everything he has gone through and overcome, Allen says, it’s so important to stay positive.

“A lot of people didn’t make it that day, God chose me and others to carry out a mission for him,” said Allen. “I still don’t know what that is, but I just hope that eventually I can fulfill that. I’m going to be grateful for everyday that I’m given.”