For the last two decades, Moore has been defined by its resilience in the face of tragedy, from extreme tornadoes, to the more recent heart wrenching loss of three students last year.
Their dedication to each other is the definition of “Moore strong.”
The city joined the rest of the world as they lost loved ones to COVID-19 in early 2020, but they also lost cross country athletes Rachel Freeman, Kolby Crum and Yuridia Martinez in a hit-and-run outside of Moore High School in February of that year. The driver, Max Townsend, was sentenced to three life terms last week.
Since 2009, Moore High Schools have come together to kick off the football season with the annual alumni association-sponsored 5K, Moore War. Rival high schools Moore High and Westmoore High students and racers hit the road Saturday morning with spirits higher than they have been since before 2020.
“It’s a different vibe this year,” alumni board member Terra O’Steen said Saturday. “I feel like everybody’s pretty upbeat.”
The sense of community is apparent even in local rivalry between high schools.
“Moore ‘strong’ is a culture like I’ve never seen before,” O’Steen said. “We come together when there’s tragedy. We come together when good things are happening. Moore strong comes together at ball games, at any type of event. We have our rivals, but when we come together we are one.”
Though the tone at last year’s run was somber, event organizer Judy Scott said it was the highest year for registrations for 5k organizers had seen, even though turnout was low due to the pandemic. The event funds college scholarships for Moore students, raising an average of $15,000 a year.
“Our main purpose is to support the students, and primarily through scholarships,” Scott said. “Registrations are up. We got a lot last year, and it’s up from last year, slightly.”
It was a tough call in 2020 whether or not to hold the run in the throes of a pandemic and in a grieving community, but Scott said the community needed it.
“It was still an uplifting event and that’s why we decided to go ahead and have it. It means a lot to the community and it was important to have it last year,” she said.
Missing from the crowd Saturday were the three students, who were always faithful to support the run. Their absence was felt.
“It’s painful, but I feel like there’s a lot of healing left to do,” O’Steen said. “I think healing is every day, but I think every day is getting a little bit easier. It’s definitely a process.”