Resilience Helps Oklahomans Rise From The Ashes

Saturday, March 12th 2011, 10:41 pm
By: News 9

Jacqueline Sit, News 9

CHOCTAW, Oklahoma -- As the sun came up and the smoke cleared, the picture of the wildfires destruction became clearer with smoldering hot spots homes burned to the ground. It's an image that seemed to repeat itself in one block after the next.

Down the road the winds that ripped through a Choctaw neighborhood have calmed and many residents, like Patti Walker, are thankful.

"I'm very blessed because we're very lucky," said Patti Walker.

Walker is grateful for the neighbors who saved her home.

"Everybody was just grabbing hoses and pitching in when they can pitch in, and when something was getting really bad we just concentrate on that area. It's just amazing how good the people are around here," said Walker.

The Choctaw resident was home when the fire swept through town Friday and she refused to leave.

"I've been told I was a ding a ling for not leaving but I was like ‘I can't leave my house. If I lose my memories, I lose everything," Walker said.

Other were not as lucky, like Choctaw's mayor Randy Ross.

"The fires just two years ago went just to the west of me and took out several houses," Ross remembered. "Fortunately we missed those, but this time we weren't so fortunate."

The mayor like many, he is left with nothing but the shirt on his back.

"It's pretty sentimental. It's tough to look at all your worldly possessions that are gone and I'm wearing pretty much borrowed clothing today with the shirt I gave my father-in-law and my son's pants," Ross said.

The wildfire wiped out the home his kids grew up in, but he's grateful his wife escaped safely.

Despite losing his home of 27 years, he's dealing with the devastation with a smile, which he said he has plenty of reasons to do.

"The sun is shining and we all got up and now just go about their business and Oklahomans are resilient," Choctaw's mayor said.

The mayor said he plans to rebuild and Patti Walker said she will recover, which is proof Oklahomans' resilience will help them rise from the ashes.

"I looked out last night and what really makes you believe is look out there and see a field that's been burn to a crispy critter and then you see the two horses and the donkey there like ‘OK, life goes on and we survived.' So that kinda makes you feel better," Walker said.

More: Choctaw Mayor's Home Among Those Destroyed In Wildfire