Story by Ammie Bryant, Images provided by D. Scott Petty
Three years ago, the Stillwater community experienced a heartbreaking, life-altering tragedy at the OSU Homecoming Parade. Ask nearly anyone where they were when it happened and they will be able to tell you in detail. For me and my family, we were at home. We overslept that morning and missed the start of the Sea of Orange parade, so we opted to stay at home. If we had woke up on time, we would have been standing just south of the corner of Main and Hall of Fame on the east side of the street along the sidewalk near Strickland Park. We would have been located just across the way from where four lives were taken, approximately 50 people were injured, and countless lives changed when one young woman drove through a barricade and a police motorcycle, mowing down the crowd in her path.
I remember hearing helicopters fly over our house and thinking it was a little early for a fly-over of any kind, but it is not unusual to see helicopters or jets over Stillwater on gameday and especially on Homecoming. I logged onto social media to see friend after friend expressing their shock and horror at what had happened. After that, it was a morning filled with frantic phone calls and text messages to everyone we knew who could possibly be at the parade to make sure they were safe.
D. Scott Petty remembers that day and how the events unfolded for him and his family. As an OSU Alumni and the 40th Pistol Pete, he had been on the Pistol Pete Alumni float finishing the parade route about 45 minutes before tragedy struck. The Pistol Pete float is early in the parade to allow time for the current Pistol Pete(s) to get back to campus to prepare for the rest of the day’s activities.
After exiting the parade route, Scott collected his parents to deliver them to their vehicle so that they could make their way to a tailgate with friends. Then Scott got a call from his daughter. She had been up the street a little ways but knew something was terribly wrong because of all the people running away sobbing in shock. Scott instructed her to get away from the area and made another call to Shyla Eggers, Stillwater Medical Center’s Director of Public Relations, to see what she knew. Eggers confirmed the worst. Scott asked what he could do and she said they might need help with media and visitors. “Yes, please come if you can,” she said. Scott headed to the hospital to do what he could.
Petty is the Executive Director of the Stillwater Medical Foundation. In the days that followed, he quickly realized the importance of this mass casualty event in the history of the Stillwater Medical Center. Recognizing that there likely would be a future updated book written about the history of the Stillwater Medical Center, he began documenting the stories he encountered for a future chapter in that book. Soon, he realized he had much more than a single chapter.
Because of his role as the Executive Director of the Stillwater Medical Foundation, Petty became closely acquainted with many victims and their families during the Foundation’s two month Stillwater Strong fundraising campaign. The funds raised provided financial assistance to help offset medical bills and other pressing financial demands.
“Stillwater Strong, Loyal and True” emerged from those interactions and is inspired by the victims, survivors, first responders, and volunteers in the wake of the OSU Alumni Homecoming parade tragedy. The book offers a detailed account of true events occurring before, during, and after the Oklahoma State University Homecoming parade crash in Stillwater, Oklahoma, on Saturday, October 24, 2015.
All of the profits from the book were earmarked for the Stillwater Strong Memorial, which is scheduled to be dedicated on Friday, October 26, 2018. The memorial will be located near the corner of Hall of Fame and Hoke St. on land owned by the City of Stillwater, just northwest of the site of the crash. After funding the memorial, profits from the book will support underfunded Stillwater medical or community needs.
In addition to the book sales, Leadership Stillwater Class XXVI partnered with the Stillwater Community Foundation to help raise funds for the memorial. The memorial is estimated to cost approximately $80,000. Between donations, books sales, and in-kind donations, “We are really close to being fully funded,” said Petty.
Architect Gary Sparks donated his services for the memorial. The design includes a six-foot tall metal blue and orange ribbon mounted on a forty-inch granite base symbolizing the Stillwater and Oklahoma State University community. Mounted to the base will be four markers dedicated to those who lost their lives: Marvin and Bonnie Stone, Nikita Nakal, and Nash Lucas.
“In the very back [of the book] I have a section called ‘Remembering.’ I talk about each of the victims because […] I felt like I couldn’t write this book and not tell the reader who these people were and how important they were to their families and our community. It’s kind of hard to capture someone’s life on a 12” x 12” tile, but that is how we are honoring them at this site,” explained Petty.
The book is available for purchase locally at OSU Student Union Bookstore, Eskimo Joe’s Clothes, Hall of Fame Book Trader, Chris’ University Spirit, Bliss Books & Bindery, and other major book retailers such as Barnes and Noble. For more information about the book, visit StillwaterStrong.org.