Duchess of York reunites with Oklahoma City bombing survivor

Friday, May 3rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ When 8-year-old P.J. Allen learned the Duchess of York was coming to Oklahoma City, he could hardly wait.

Allen anxiously skipped along the stone steps of the Oklahoma City National Memorial Thursday, toting a dozen pink roses in one hand and an action figure in the other.

``Is Fergie here yet? Is Fergie here yet,'' asked a wide-eyed Allen, one of six children who survived the Oklahoma City bombing.

Ferguson met with state officials to promote her New York-based children's charity and reunite with Allen, whom she's supported since the bombing.

She took an interest in the boy after seeing his picture on the cover of Newsweek being carried out of the bombing rubble by a firefighter.

P.J. inhaled hot air during the explosion and his lungs were seared. His skin was scarred from burns and flying debris.

The April 19, 1995 blast at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building killed 168 people, including 19 children _ most of them in a day-care center on the second floor.

Ferguson has kept in touch with Allen by sending him Christmas and birthday presents, cards and asks frequently about his improving health and schoolwork.

With open arms and the affectionate nickname ``Peej,'' The Duchess was reunited with Allen near the Survivor Tree.

``It's like she's a member of our family,'' said Deloris Watson, Allen's grandmother.

Watson held a few crinkled sheets of bright construction paper under one arm _ a collection of Allen's schoolwork, colored-in drawings and a card thanking Ferguson for a Nintendo GameCube she sent him.

``It took him a lot of practice to write that letter with his left hand because it was broken in three places,'' Watson said. ``He's really had to practice his penmanship.''

Ferguson also presented a rag doll _ her charity's mascot_ to the memorial's museum.

The doll, perched in an office window on the 101st floor of the World Trade Center, survived the devastation of the Sept. 11 terror attacks without a scratch.

``On Sept. 11, a firefighter found Little Red and scooped him out of the rubble and put it in his hat,'' Ferguson said. ``Just like a fireman picked up P.J. and carried him out of the rubble.''

Her Chances For Children charity raises funds for local organizations who respond to the needs of children. So far, the charity has raised nearly $2 million in Oklahoma.

Ferguson leads many international groups, including one that provided underground home-schooling for children in Afghanistan during the Taliban rule.

The 42-year-old duchess divorced six years ago from Prince Andrew, the second son of Queen Elizabeth II.

She was deeply in debt following the 1996 divorce, but has since taken several high-profile jobs, among them as a spokeswoman for Weight Watchers.