MOORE — Stephen Begay appeared preoccupied before Tuesday morning’s ceremony to remember victims of the May 20, 2013, tornado, like he was looking for a long-lost friend.
Turns out he was.
Moments later, Max Broderick appeared, and the two men joined in a long embrace and started to cry.
“I saw him, and I just couldn’t get over there fast enough,” Begay said. “I just thanked him.”
A year had passed since Broderick helped Begay and Begay’s brother-in-law pull his 90-year-old grandmother from the rubble of her home near SW 12 and Santa Fe.
Kathryn Begay had suffered a fractured skull. Stephen Begay, an EMSA emergency medical technician who was off-duty that day, knew she needed to be removed delicately.
“Max just came out of nowhere and jumped right in,” Begay recalled.
“Because of her injury and her age, we couldn’t just pick her up by her arms or legs. We had to keep her head elevated.”
Kathryn Begay lived 73 days before succumbing to her injuries.
“He did not know that my grandmother had passed,” Begay said.
It was the first time Begay and Broderick, a U.S. Air Force staff sergeant, had crossed paths since May 20, 2013. Broderick left his job at Tinker Air Force Base on Tuesday morning and rushed to the remembrance site after watching a television interview with Begay.
“I saw him come on and I said, ‘That guy looks familiar,’” Broderick said. “As soon as he mentioned his grandmother and pulling her out of her house, I took off from the base and came down to try to meet with him.”
When he showed up, Begay was gone, but the reporter who interviewed Begay gave Broderick his phone number, and the two made plans to meet before the start of the ceremony.
“I didn’t think I’d ever see him again,” Broderick said.
“I went in for a handshake, and it turned into a big ol’ hug, a solid embrace.”
“It was a pretty awesome reunion for two people who had never known each other at all. I was trying to hold it in.”
The men reflected on that fateful day.
After leaving his grandmother at the hospital with relatives, Begay returned to the devastated community to assist with recovery efforts.
Both men worked well into the night helping others.
Both lost their homes and their possessions, Begay said.
Both suffered injuries of their own that day.
Begay said it bugged him that he hadn’t learned the identity of the man who helped his grandmother.
“It was nice to finally meet him and say ‘thank you,’” Begay said. “He was the one who helped carry my grandmother out.”