By Michael Kinney
Ever since the Coronavirus has spread into Oklahoma, there are several groups of people who have stayed on their job because of their essential status. They include nurses and first responders.
However, there is one group that has continued to work in the same conditions, but are much less herald. They are those in the public transportation realm. The bus drivers have been on the job in Oklahoma City and other parts of the state keeping the economy moving.
That is why Tommie Johnson found himself at the EMBARK headquarters Wednesday evening. The Norman police officer wanted to give back to the underappreciated group.
“We wanted to give back to our community, definitely give back to people who have been servicing Oklahoma County,” Johnson said. “Now I’m a police officer. I realize that the community has poured so much love and attention to us, as first responders, and I appreciate that. But as a cop, you see other sides of things and how other people are investing, especially during this COVID crisis as well.”
Johnson decided the best way to show his gratitude was by feeding the EMBARK employees.
He enlisted the help of his old high school baseball teammate Abel Deloera, who is the manager of San Marcos Mexican Restaurant.
Deloera’s family established San Marcos in 1993. The business has grown to five locations during the past 27 years.
“I went to school with him at U.S. Grant. We played on the same baseball team, so our ties go way back,” Johnson said. “We brought food here today and fed approximately 30 people. We brought enough for 30 meals, full setups, fajitas, enchiladas, the whole works.”
According to Johnson, the EMBARK personnel was very appreciative of the gift.
“When I called in to schedule this, the lady who answered the phone was like, ‘Sir, I appreciate that more than anything, because somebody is thinking about us,’” Johnson said. “And when you get that response, I mean, that made me feel so good. I mean, even bringing the food here, just hearing her say, “Somebody’s thinking about us.” That made me feel good.”
Johnson, who is also running for Oklahoma County Sheriff, said he knows the men and women who transport people are the ones who are keeping the economy going in every city and town. He wanted to show them that their work has not gone unnoticed.
“I believe situations like this, you feel you’re forgotten. Their toeing the front line like first responders are, and their job is very important,” Johnson said. “And I didn’t want them to think it would be overlooked, and I didn’t want the community to overlook them either. We need to shed light on the people who are doing positive things that may just not be in the nursing field, or on police or the fire side. But they are just as easily exposed to this as we are. So I just wanted to just show appreciation. Abel wanted to show appreciation, and San Marcos did as well.”
Johnson said what he and Deloera did is just being part of a community.
“I think all too often, police and a lot of first responders are put in a box, like it’s just enforcement that we do,” Johnson said. “Police are involved in the community at a level much greater than that. We see when situations like the COVID-19 hit, we see how that affects communities at a ground level, and we see how it affects people in their homes. And so I just think from that perspective, I think this is why this fits so well, and why I’m running for Oklahoma County Sheriff is because I want to be more than an enforcer. I want to be involved in my community in a bigger capacity. I want them to know that they have me for more than just enforcing the laws on the street. They have somebody who’s going to be invested as well.”