MOORE — Corey Callens often teases Rodney Rideaux about what is virtually the one thing — the side of Interstate 35 each lives on in Moore — separating the two OU assistant coaches.
“I tell him, ‘You stay on your side of town; I'll stay on mine,'” Callens said with a laugh.
Callens and Rideaux were OU teammates in the late 1990s. They're both fathers; Callens and his wife have three young children, and Rideaux has a 3-year-old daughter.
They worked on Oklahoma's strength staff together from 2007 until this spring, when Callens resigned his position to take a graduate assistant job, hoping to kick-start an on-field coaching career.
A recent tragedy added another layer to their strong bond. The devastating tornado that ripped through Moore on Monday severely damaged Rideaux's west-side home, then ripped across I-35 and destroyed Callens' house.
Both Callens and Rideaux are left picking up the pieces — literally — but also have experienced undying compassion and generosity from friends, families, co-workers and complete strangers.
“Honestly, it's one of the worst experiences, but one of the greatest realizations to know that so many people want to help,” Callens said. “Not just people I know. I've had people all day coming up here while I'm going through the rubble, trying to find things, offering water, asking to help.”
‘I'M JUST GRATEFUL'
Callens was breaking down film at the OU football offices Monday afternoon, but also keeping his eye on the weather.
“I grew up in Oklahoma, and I've always heard the sirens and heard the warnings,” said Callens, a former defensive end from Jenks. “I never thought that I would be in the middle of one, or my house would be. I just thought we were playing the drill again. It got me this time. Wiped me out.”
His wife and three kids were safe at Callens' mother-in-law's home, so they didn't know the extent of the damage until they arrived Monday evening. Because of a gas leak, the area was evacuated and Callens couldn't return until the next day.
Tuesday morning, as firefighter and former OU offensive tackle Chris Messner worked on Callens' property, he discovered a powerful memento: Callens' game ball from Oklahoma's 2007 Red River Rivalry victory.
After Callens arrived, he was overwhelmed by the support he received from the OU athletic department. Some former teammates and OU players arrived Wednesday to help Callens go through the rubble.
“I've got some former players of mine trying to come up here and help me find my rings,” Callens said of his Big 12 championship rings, earned as both an OU player and assistant strength coach.
“Coach Stoops has reached out to me. He's actually giving me a gift that's gonna help my family out a little bit. ... I'm just grateful. I'm grateful I've got three kids, and they're all breathing right now, and my wife's happy. So I am, too.”
‘IT LOOKS LIKE SOMEBODY DROPPED A BOMB'
Rideaux sat in his living room Monday afternoon, watching the weather on television while his 3-year old daughter, Gray, napped next to him.
The KFOR meteorologist advised anyone in Moore who didn't have a storm shelter to get out of town, so Rideaux woke his daughter, picked her up and ran out the door.
As Rideaux drove down S. 19th Street toward the highway, he realized his dog, Remy, was still in the backyard.
The father and daughter arrived at another family member's home in Norman without their beloved dog, so Rideaux posted a photo on Facebook hoping someone would recognize Remy.
Wednesday, someone found Remy at a veterinarian's office in Mustang.
“He's a little tough sucker,” Rideaux said. “I'm just thankful somebody found him. That's my kid's best friend. Those two are buddies.”
Rideaux is thankful his home wasn't completely destroyed, but much of the area surrounding his house is devastated. He lives just around the corner from Plaza Towers Elementary School.
“We used to go to that playground and play all the time,” Rideaux said. “It looks like somebody dropped a bomb on these people. I just feel bad for all the people who have lost everything.”
Rideaux said he's leaned on Callens over the past few days, and Callens has leaned on him.
“Everybody's asking, ‘What can we do for you? How can we help?'” Rideaux said. “To be flat-out honest, and it's no disrespect to anybody, but we don't know what you can do.
“All I've got right now is a suitcase full of clothes. It's tough. People want to help, and you want to be receptive to that, but it's like, ‘What do you do?'”