NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Community News Network

May 27, 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 | Photo Reprints
Community News Network

Offbeat
NDN Video
Cleveland welcomes home LeBron Houston Killer Collapses in Court When Read Capital Murder Charges for Allegedly Killing Family of Six Worst Valet Ever Wrecks $500K Lamborghini Glee Star Becca Tobin's Boyfriend Matt Bendik Found Dead in Hotel Aerial fish restocking in Utah ScarJo Channels Marilyn Monroe Obama Responds to Hecklers on Immigration Tiny Hamsters Who Ate Burritos are Back for a Tiny Hedgehog's Party Watch Kelly Ripa Get Soaked! 'Referee' Hands Out Yellow Cards for Social Faux Pas in NYC 2014 Emmy Nominees: 8 Snub Shockers Emma Watson Is Va-Va-Voom in Valentino 7 Infamous Sports Blowouts Argentina tops Holland in World Cup semifinals News flush: Japanese toilet exhibition making a splash Emmy Nominations: What to Watch For 'Game of Thrones' Leads 66th Emmy Awards Nominations Photographic 'Proof' That LeBron Is Leaving Miami - @TheBuzzeronFOX Elephant Pool Party at The Oregon Zoo Must-See! Berry and Fallon Form Human Hamster Wheel
Special Features
NRA Waterfront Plans