Virtual Voices

Storm and drive in the gateway to the West

"Storm and drive in the gateway to the West" Continued...

A handwritten sign at the Oklahoma City National Memorial.
Photo by Warren Cole Smith
A handwritten sign at the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

Another tragedy also contributed to Oklahoma City’s resurgence: Hurricane Katrina. While New Orleans recovered, the city’s National Basketball Association team, the Hornets, needed a temporary home. It picked Oklahoma City. The town went berserk, developing what Oklahoma City columnist Adam Knapp called a “full blown love affair” with the team. After two years, the Hornets moved back to New Orleans, but Oklahoma City had proven it could support a professional team at the premiere league level. In 2008, after Seattle’s relationship with the mediocre SuperSonics soured, that team moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder, making the playoffs every year since then. It even advanced to the finals in 2012.

The team has, in a strange way, become a symbol for a city now used to fighting back. Its very name calls to mind the fact that Oklahoma City is in tornado alley and is also the home of Tinker Air Force Base. Sturm und drang—“storm and drive”—are now a part of Oklahoma City’s message to the world.

Oklahoma City is also where the road we have been traveling begins to follow the route of the fabled U.S. 66—sometimes called “America’s Mother Road”—and turns due west. So we leave the Oklahoma City National Memorial, head south past Bricktown and the Chesapeake Energy Arena where the Thunder plays its home games. We get once again on I-40 and drive under the SkyDance Pedestrian Bridge which spans the interstate and connects downtown to the Oklahoma River. The SkyDance Bridge, a spectacular sculpture as well as a footbridge, is the most recent of the MAPS public-private partnership projects.

When we emerge from beneath it, the late afternoon, western sun is bright in our eyes. The rays reflect off Oklahoma City’s new and gleaming skyline to our right, and America’s Mother Road lies ahead.

Warren Cole Smith
Warren Cole Smith

Warren, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., is vice president of WORLD News Group and the host of the radio program Listening In. Follow Warren on Twitter @WarrenColeSmith.

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