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OKC Thunder: Kevin Durant tours Moore, meets with residents

Durant did anything and everything he could to bring a smile to as many faces as possible. He shook hands and gave hugs. He posed for pictures and signed autographs.
by Darnell Mayberry Published: May 22, 2013

A muddied American flag rested atop the metal pole that stood defiantly at the corner.

Its peaceful position contradicted perfectly the catastrophic winds that only two days earlier had ripped through town, leaving this block utterly unidentifiable, one of many that have been reduced to rubble.

But the still of that flag, which had replaced a street sign that is now God knows where, symbolized the strength, courage and determination of a community.

And on a warm Wednesday afternoon, the second day of rebuilding, the people within this Westmoor subdivision of Moore welcomed a much-needed symbol of hope.

Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant.

One day after donating his money, Durant traveled back to Oklahoma to give his time.

He did anything and everything he could to bring a smile to as many faces as possible. He shook hands and gave hugs. He posed for pictures and signed autographs.

Not once did Durant turn down a request, graciously scribbling his signature on anything he was handed. A pair of shoes. A hat. A Thunder mug. A team program.

“I just feel for these families, man,” Durant said. “They don't have a home. All their things are gone. I'm just lost for words, to be honest.”

As he strolled the streets of Moore with his brother, Tony, and close friends Cliff Dixon and Randy Williams, Durant repeated the word “unbelievable.”

Roofs were caved in. Garages were gone. Cars were totaled. There was an unforgettable image of a pair of jeans still hanging in a closet of one home that had lost all its walls and had become completely exposed.

“It doesn't seem real,” Durant said. “It looked like a bomb hit.”

For roughly one hour, Durant helped take these residents' minds off the destruction as he toured their neighborhood.

Two houses down from that symbolic flag lived a man Durant had met many times. He is a police officer. He works Thunder games inside Chesapeake Energy Arena.

Master Sgt. Tim Kraeger's manicured lawn was now buried under a pile of debris. A vehicle of some kind was flipped over on top of what used to be his roof. His house number “204” used to sit atop his garage door. Now it's close to touching the driveway.

“Awesome. Just totally awesome,” Kraeger said of Durant stopping by. “I just wish my son would have been here. He would have been in heaven because he's a big basketball player.”

Kraeger also lost a home in the May 3 disaster. This time, he was only months away from retiring with his longtime friend and police partner, Kendall Satterwhite.

“You can get mad or you can deal with it and move on,” Kraeger said. “Deal with it and move on. It's not the end of the world.”

He was just happy his wife, Carolyn, her mother and his son, all of whom were inside the home, were OK.

“They're safe,” he said. “They're alive.”

That had become the day's theme.

Moments earlier, a couple had driven by in a deep blue Honda CR-V.

“We still have our lives,” the female driver yelled to Durant.

“That's the most important thing, right?” Durant replied as the vehicle rolled along.

Tony Durant tried to put things into perspective.

“Remember when we had that blizzard in D.C. and people were complaining?” he asked Kevin.

Kevin Durant crawled back into a white van and was driven just a few blocks, to Briarwood Elementary, where children were in school when Monday's powerful tornado came barreling toward them. After getting out, Durant walked along the curb of the school, taking in exposed beams, torn apart walls and water sitting in the hallway.

He grew silent.

Durant made a sharp turn back toward the van. But a lady stopped him.

Sheri Neal needed to talk to somebody. Her son, Logan, a fifth-grader, was inside that school on Monday. Without warning, she began sharing her story, seemingly desperate for a shoulder to cry on.

She remembers warning Logan that the weather would be inclement.

“I said we're going to have some bad weather today,” she recalled. “You need to take care of the little kids and your teachers.”

Logan did, and when Sheri made it back to her son she was told as much.

“His teacher came over and said that she was really scared and that he helped her not be so scared,” Sheri said, tearing up. “So I was really proud of him.”

Durant, meanwhile, was speechless. For the first time in the day, he struggled to find the right words.

“I just want to say thank you to the foundation and everybody's support,” Sheri told Durant. “It's going to take a lot to rebuild, but I think we can do it.”

“You can,” Durant said. “No doubt. You can.”

After giving $1 million to relief efforts, Durant, in that moment, turned and walked away as if he wanted to give $1 million more.

His generosity, however, had served its purpose.

“What he immediately said to everyone around him is ‘We got to do something,'” said Emmanuel Bailey, president of the board of the Kevin Durant Charity Foundation. “And so he, on his own, decided that he wanted to give $1 million. And, really, that was designed to motivate others to give. I think we're up to about $7.5 million now as a result of Mr. Durant's gift.”

Durant said giving his time was a direct reflection of how the Thunder is a part of the community.

“We're not just here to play basketball. We really are embedded in the community, invested in the community,” Durant said. “And it's good to see them smile. That's the best part about it. It's going to change here soon. We just got to stick together as a community.”

A community Durant has totally embraced.

“They're not Oklahomans, but they sure act like it now don't they?” Kraeger said.

by Darnell Mayberry
OKC Thunder Senior Reporter
Darnell Mayberry grew up in Langston, Okla. and is now in his third stint in the Sooner state. After a year and a half at Bishop McGuinness High, he finished his prep years in Falls Church, Va., before graduating from Norfolk State University in...
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