With the anniversary of the Moore tornado less than a week away, ESPN is airing a feature Sunday on an iconic photo after the tornado shot by Paul Hellstern of The Oklahoman.
In researching the story, ESPN producer Scott Harves said he thought what better person to narrate the piece than Thunder star Kevin Durant, who visited with survivors in the devastated area and donated $1 million to recovery efforts.
The photo shows first responder Jim Routon hugging his 7-year-old neighbor Hezekiah Darbon at Briarwood Elementary school on May 20 after a tornado destroyed the school.
“Although the story doesn’t involve Kevin Durant, his name kind of came up in one of the anecdotes as I was doing an interview with Hezekiah’s teacher,” Harves said. “It sort of dawned on me. If Kevin wouldn’t mind lending his voice to it, it would be a cool tie-in. Obviously, his support for the community is well-documented.”
In late March after Thunder practice, Durant provided the narration after watching a rough cut of the video.
“He said he got a little emotional watching it,” Harves said.
The nine-minute piece, “A Lasting Image,” will air on ESPN’s “Outside the Lines,” 8 a.m. Sunday, and also Sunday on “SportsCenter,” including 9 a.m.
The piece provides the back story of the photo with Routon and Hezekiah, who are friends and neighbors and what happened that day. Hezekiah plays youth football, and sports is part of the bond between the families.
Hellstern told ESPN, “I think almost without a doubt this is the most impactful photo that I have taken. They had this bond, and that bond was made even stronger after the tornado.”
Waynel Mayes, Hezekiah’s teacher at Briarwood: “The walls had fallen down on us. We could just smell gas, and I thought that was how we might go.”
Hezekiah’s father, Joseph Darbon: “It looked like a war zone. I almost lost hope when I got there, I couldn’t believe how anybody would’ve survived that.”