Thunder Supports Rebuilding Oklahoma Communities
Two vans weaved through the neighborhoods surrounding the locations where Briarwood Elementary and Plaza Towers Elementary once stood, and will stand again soon.
On Wednesday afternoon, the Thunder trio of Reggie Jackson, Perry Jones and Daniel Orton visited four different locations throughout the Moore area and toured many of the rebuilding projects that have been progressing nicely over the course of the summer.
By lifting themselves by their own bootstraps and with the aid of family, friends and neighbors, Oklahomans have confidently continued their efforts to restore areas impacted by the May tornadoes to their best possible state. As the Thunder players traveled through the area, they were astonished by the resiliency and strength of the residents.
“It’s a humbling experience,” Jackson said. “Just seeing how these people are responding to what is going on around them, they just continue to build and continue trying to be joyous. They support us throughout it all and we thank them because it would be easy to give up, but that’s not in their nature. This community and this state as a whole have one of the toughest backbones that I’ve seen.”
The day started off with dual events at the temporary locations for Briarwood and Plaza Towers, as Jackson and Jones visited Briarwood students at Emmaus Baptist Church and Orton, an Oklahoma City native, stopped by Central Junior High, where Plaza Towers students have classes this year. Both visits were a surprise to the students, who erupted with glee when the players walked in. A buzz was in the air at both locations, and when Jackson and Jones finished competing in the traditional student-faculty relay races during Briarwood’s Grizzly Growl, the cheers were exhilarating and smiles seemingly endless.
“It’s always joyous to be around kids to see how excited they were to see us,” Jackson said. “We were just as excited to see them.”
Next on the agenda was a trip to the original and future site of Briarwood Elementary, which has now been completely cleared of debris and is primed for the rebuild to commence. As the caravan made its way from Briarwood through the Plaza Towers neighborhood, many workers were helping put up new foundations, walls and even the finishing touches on some houses for families to begin moving back in. Seemingly without blinking, Oklahomans, hand-in-hand with agencies like the Red Cross, have banded together over the past four months to get residents back on their feet.
“This community really stepped up in a way I’ve never seen,” Red Cross’ Regional CEO Janienne Bella said. “There were volunteers, people giving of their time, their talents, their energy, financial donations and community resources. It was far greater than anything I’ve experienced.”
For those who live in the Oklahoma area, and to the Thunder, which has experienced the same type of amazement and awe when encountering Oklahomans, Bella’s statement is not a surprise. As Orton, a former Bishop McGuinness High School standout can attest, it’s just a part of Oklahomans’ DNA to look out for their neighbors, keep their heads held high and press forward to create the best community possible to raise families and live together harmoniously.
“It’s just something you see in Oklahoma,” Orton said. “People that aren’t from Oklahoma, most of the guys on the Thunder, they kind of get a realization of how Oklahomans are and how strong we are and how close knit we are together. Everybody is for everybody. It’s family.”
This area is home to Oklahomans from every community, and five years into the Thunder’s residency in Oklahoma City, the significance of what home truly means here has been inspiring to the organization and is something every member can feel.