Moments after the horrific May 20th tornado ripped through the Oklahoma City region, Moore Fire Station #1 was a hive of activity.
As a major headquarters for first responders including police officers, medics, FEMA and other organizations, the fire station and the firemen stationed there were critical to the recovery efforts to both rescue victims and help families get back on their feet. As it has done all five years the organization has been in Oklahoma, the Thunder has continually tried to make an impact in the community. On Thursday, one of the Thunder’s newest members, rookie Andre Roberson, stopped by the station to meet with firefighters and their families.
“It’s a great experience, getting to see what they can do for the community,” Roberson said. “It really opened up my eyes to see what really happened. Those guys, responding like that, shows how brave they are and how much support they give the community.”
Roberson, the second of the Thunder’s two first round draft picks in the 2013 Draft, brought his very friendly and comfortable personality as he took pictures, signed autographs and chatted with firefighters, their wives and kids. Deputy Fire Chief Greg Herbster led Roberson through a tour of the facility, while first responders Nathan Stager and Trent Wood showed him the trucks and equipment. It was evident that the spirits of the entire department were lifted to have a Thunder player come down and personally recognize their efforts.
“I think it was huge for our department,” Stager said. “I think it was a great experience for us to see the way that the Thunder and the whole organization interacts with the community and everybody around them. I know that we all think that it’s our team and they think it’s their community. Working together and all being one, it’s an awesome deal for everybody.”
“It’s great teaming up with the Thunder,” Herbster echoed. “They’re very appealing to the public. Citizens love them. It’s wonderful to join hands with them and support our community.”
The very inquisitive Roberson found out everything from the speed of the fire trucks to the size of the water pumps, but he also got some firsthand perspective too. After briefly trying on a full firefighter uniform, Roberson hopped aboard one of the fire trucks and made a trip down to the affected areas in Moore.
A visit to Plaza Towers Elementary and the hardest hit areas of Moore was a poignant moment for Roberson, and also one that built a nice bond between himself and the firefighters because of the mutual respect that has been built between the two organizations who help those in the community.
“Those guys are heroes to us too,” Wood said. “We sit there by the TV and watch them every night and never miss a game when we’re up here. It was really fun to talk to him and nice to get to know one of the new guys.”
“He was an awesome guy,” Stager said. “He seemed to be in good spirits and just like everybody up here at the fire department, we’re all a bunch of big kids. He looked like he had a great time.”
Since he was drafted, Roberson spent a week in Orlando with the team for Summer League and has been working hard at the INTEGRIS Health Thunder Development Center, so this was his first true opportunity to get out in the Oklahoma City community and make an appearance. During his time at the station, he made sure not to leave without taking every picture, signing every autograph and thanking every member of the staff.
As Roberson himself put it, he was “blessed” to visit Oklahoma’s true heroes who save lives every day. He’s only a few weeks on the job, but it’s clear that Roberson understands the importance the Thunder puts on its community and the deep ties that have been built between the organization and the people in Oklahoma already.
“It’s great to give back,” Roberson said. “They give us a lot of support, so why not give it back? I’m glad I came out here and did this. It won’t be my last thing I do.”