Claremore Daily Progress

Top Stories

May 25, 2013

Flags become symbols of hope, unity in tornado-damaged Oklahoma

MOORE, Okla. — The first thing Kevin Gibson did after returning to his house, torn apart by a powerful tornado Monday, was pull an American flag and a temporary flagpole from the corner of his partially standing garage.

Neighbors forlornly picking through the rubbish of their lives stopped to watch Gibson's nephew, Sean Pontius, stick the pole into the ground and hoist the Stars and Stripes.

The flag-raising seemed to hearten the neighbors, as if to assure them they would emerge triumphant from this disaster.

With the remnants of their lives lying around them, Gibson recalled, the neighbors began applauding and chanting: "Yes sir! Raise that flag!"

"It means we are still united, whatever happens," he said, the flag flapping in the wind as his family helped him pore through the wreckage for salvageable possessions.

In many ravaged neighborhoods in this Oklahoma City suburb, where Monday's tornado was its fiercest, American flags have been popping up amid the ruins. They are hung from skeletal trees denuded of leaves and bark, stuck in the doors of cars turned upside down and draped over pieces of twisted metal embedded in the ground.

The shot of red, white and blue flying in a landscape of ashen brown is startling and powerfully defiant, seeming to embody the mettle of the national anthem. Pontius said the flag in front of his uncle's house reminds him of photos he has seen of the flag over the collapsed World Trade Center, or Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima.

"It represents our spirit as Oklahomans and Americans," said Chris DeWitt, pointing to a flag a neighbor had planted on a basketball frame. " We're here, we're proud and we'll be back."

Flags are flying on almost every street in the subdivision where Gibson and DeWitt resided, a working-class neighborhood where country music singer Toby Keith lived in a rented house before hitting it big and moving away. Residents used to picnic in nearby Veterans Memorial Park, where U.S. and Oklahoma state flags with tattered ends fly from two tall poles. A third, shorter pole, holding a black MIA-POW flag, has a large chunk of aluminum roadside rail wrapped around it, as if it were a rigid fourth banner.

Text Only
Top Stories
  • Students paint mural Catoosa High School artists paint mural to instill respect, inspiration

    Catoosa High School students, Devin Jackson and Spencer Plumlee, recently put the finishing touches on a mural that took more than a year to complete. 

    April 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • Local attorneys fight to eliminate judgment

    Claremore attorneys — Thomas H. Williams and Jack E. Gordon Jr. —   filed a petition Tuesday to vacate the $27.9 million judgment awarded to Material Service Corp. 

    April 18, 2014

  • Rogers County Water Dist. 16 receives grant

    Rogers County Rural Water District No. 16 received a $24,999 grant Tuesday to help finance expansion of the district’s water supply infrastructure.  

    April 18, 2014

  • Grand Jury recesses until June 24

    The multicounty grand jury charged with investigating accusations of misconduct by Rogers County officials recessed Thursday until June 24-26, saying it needed to hear from more witnesses before returning a finding in the matter.

    April 17, 2014

  • Harps Food opens new store in Inola

    On April 23, Harps Food Stores will reach a new milestone in their company’s history with the opening of its 75th store. 

    April 17, 2014

  • helping children Tri-County CASA seeks additional volunteers as child abuse cases increase

    From 2010-2013, Oklahoma has seen an increase in children entering foster care. According to Oklahoma Department of Human Services reports, approximately 11,000 children are in state’s custody because of child abuse or neglect — 4,000 in the Tulsa area alone and more than 100 in Rogers County.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • Judge refuses to dismiss Grubowski in DA suit

    A judge has denied businessman Myron Grubowski's motion to remove him from the defamation lawsuit filed by District Attorney Janice Steidley against sponsors of last fall's unsuccessful citizens petition for a local grand jury investigation of her  office.

    April 17, 2014

  • Controversial schools chief attracts crowd of opponents

    The field of candidates running for state school superintendent is unusually large — a sign of broad interest in what observers say is sure to be a referendum on the incumbent, Dr. Janet Barresi.

    April 17, 2014

  • Jennifer Hodges Claremont Elementary teacher named the winner of $2,500 classroom grant

    Jennifer Hodges, a fifth grade teacher at Claremont Elementary, has been named winner of a $2,500 grant through the Farmers Insurance Thank A Million Teachers program. The national initiative invites citizens to offer thanks to teachers, past and present, who have made a difference in their lives.

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Commissioners hire outside counsel

    The Rogers County Commissioners hired outside legal counsel Monday to contest the $28 million civil judgment paid to Material Service Corp.

    April 16, 2014