By Michael Kinney
The start of the Oklahoma City Thunder 2019-20 season has had its hiccups. With major departures from the roster, the franchise has been slow to find their rhythm on the court.
However, the Thunder showed this week that no matter what they are doing in the wins and loss column, they are still a vital part of the community and state.
Before the Thunder faced the Orlando Magic on Nov. 5, the franchise held a special ceremony to mark the 25th Anniversary of the Oklahoma City Bombing.
To honor those who lost their lives on that fateful April 19 day in 1995, 168 family members and survivors of the bombing traveled from around Oklahoma and eight other states to be on hand.
They were led to the center of the court where they held up the new City Edition Thunder jerseys with the names of the victims and the number 95 on the back. On the jersey, the phrase “We Remember Those Who Were Changed Forever April 19, 1995” stitched on to it.
The family members ranged in age from 11-90 and included husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, grandparents, grandkids, sisters and brothers.
The Thunder lined up on the court just a few feet away and watched the ceremony.
“It was amazing. Just a ten out of ten,” Steven Adams said. “It’s just unbelievably special and obviously the Thunder does a good job of showing us the memorial. It’s just something different, it’s absolutely amazing and the memorial does a really good job of paying respect to those who lost their lives. They’re not forgotten and the Thunder does a really good job of keeping them alive in that way. It was touching, mate.”
Adams, along with Andre Roberson is the longest-tenured member of the Thunder still with the team. So he knows how impactful the terrorist attack was on the state of Oklahoma and how it continues to build from it.
However, as point guard Chris Paul pointed out, several members of the team weren’t even alive when the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building was destroyed. So for them, this ceremony was their first true interaction with the story.
“That’s tough because for a lot of guys on our team, some of them weren’t even born then and for me, I was 10 years old and I remember that. I remember being at school and everything,” said Paul. “So it’s tough, and then playing here my first two years knowing how much that event impacted the city.”
As the family members stood on the court, a video was shown overhead that detailed the destruction and the rebirth of the city that came from it. Several of the survivors could be seen wiping tears from their eyes as the video played.
But it was when jazz singer Ernestine Dillard walked out and sang God Bless America that the emotions started to come to the surface. Despite still recovering from a stroke and the death of her husband, she put everything she had into the performance.
Dillard performed at the original memorial service for the bombing victims on April 23rd, 1995.
The City Edition jerseys will be worn by the Thunder several more times this season. But each of the family members who were on the court was able to keep the jerseys they held up.
For Ivan Martinez, who was just 10 days old when he lost his dad in the bombing, it will now become a family heirloom and a way to remember his father’s life.
“I’m going to give it to my kid, he’s gonna give it to his or her kid …. so on and so on,” Martinez posted on social media. “It’s gonna be beautiful.”
Michael Kinney is a Freelance Content Provider