For Francis Nansar, her day was made Wednesday morning when she saw members of the Oklahoma City Thunder across the street from her house.
“Oh, my God,” Nansar screamed when she saw Russell Westbrook resting in a van. “We have been season-ticket holders for three years; over there is my house,” Nansar said, pointing over to a tornado-ravaged house near Robinson Avenue and SW 144.
Wandering around Nansar's neighborhood were Thunder Coach Scott Brooks, General Manager Sam Presti and players Westbrook, Daniel Orton, Hasheem Thabeet, and Thabo Sefolosha. Oklahoma City police escorted the group around some of the heavily damaged areas.
“We are all safe, and that's the most important thing,” Nansar told Westbrook and Sefolosha, who she also told she still had a pair of his shoes in the trunk of her car.
As the Thunder members walked down streets where houses were leveled by the EF5 tornado, they signed autographs, took pictures and listened to residents tell their stories of how they escaped the tornado's wrath and what they plan to do now.
“I have never seen anything like this,” Brooks said. “It's overwhelming. I have seen photos and videos of the aftermath, and it doesn't do it justice. I'm hearing all the same story, everyone is happy they are safe and it's all just stuff. I'm inspired by all.”
While Westbrook hobbled down the neighborhood streets, still recovering from surgery on his knee, residents rummaging through the debris of their homes came to talk to him. The first thing they asked was how he was doing, something that made Westbrook look kind of taken aback.
“I wish I could do more,” he said. “Obviously, I'm on crutches, but I wish I could go in and help out and help people find their things and their belongings and do what I can to help. I think our team and organization is trying our best to help, however we can.”
The Thunder group also visited with first responders at a command post in the Moore Fire Station, 2400 S Fritts Blvd. Officials took out their cellphones and started taking pictures while the players checked out operations.
“It's great. It really helps the attitude, seeing these guys,” Moore Fire Chief Gary Bird said. “The Thunder is a great support for the city and a great support for this state. They're the state's team. The attitude, so far, has been very good. People are getting tired but we are getting a lot of support from our city, from the neighboring cities and even agencies from across the state and the country.”
Ryan Paterson had lived in his house for 12 years and drove away from the tornado when he saw on TV that it was heading his way.
“The support from the community has been phenomenal; the outpouring, the outreach, people coming by with food and water and stuff, and just the encouragement. It does volumes for people that are struggling like this,” Paterson told Presti.