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Tulsa transplants find sense of community

Kate Basch (left) and Dana Nates (right) share a laugh at 41st Street Plaza. Despite moving to Tulsa from different countries, they were able to bond over shared religious beliefs and young motherhood. (Photo by Sam Gelfand/KTUL)
Kate Basch (left) and Dana Nates (right) share a laugh at 41st Street Plaza. Despite moving to Tulsa from different countries, they were able to bond over shared religious beliefs and young motherhood. (Photo by Sam Gelfand/KTUL)
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Moving to a new city can be tough. It's easy to feel like a total stranger after moving across the country. That's why I am on a quest for knowledge.

You see, I only moved to Tulsa ten days ago. I'm a Florida native who came here from Upstate New York. Those places are nothing like Tulsa, culturally or geographically. I want to learn about this city and become a true Tulsan as quickly as possible. That's why, as NewsChannel 8's newest reporter, I sought out the best resources I could find.

I wanted to start by finding an expert on the city. That's why I went to Justin McLaughlin, the executive vice president and COO of the Tulsa Regional Chamber. He moved to Tulsa from Oklahoma City in 2009, so he had been in my shoes before.

"I think it’s a beautiful community," he told me. "I’ve been with the Chamber most of that time, and I’ve really enjoyed my time here in the community. I think we’ve got a lot of really, really great restaurants that I enjoy eating at. And then being able to have the park system that we’ve got”

That gave me an idea. To truly find the pulse of the city, you have to go to its heart. 41st Street Plaza, on the intersection with the Riverside Parkway, is the perfect place to find people on a sweltering summer day. Who better to teach me about Tulsa than Tulsans?

Sunburnt and dehydrated by the 97-degree heat, I braved the elements in my search for Tulsa natives. Funnily enough, almost everyone I found was a transplant. I met people from as near as Sapulpa and as far as Argentina (via Israel).

I asked them all a very simple question:

How do you feel about Tulsa?

"I think it's really pretty," said 12-year-old Cali DeGraffenreie.

"Me too," agreed Chase, her 8-year-old brother.

"It's been a really fun place to live," said Kate Basch, a former Manhattan business owner who moved to Tulsa two years ago. "I made a lot of good friends, had a lot of good food, surprisingly. After coming from New York, I mean."

I stopped Josh Norrid in the middle of an afternoon run. He had recently returned to his native Tulsa after spending several years on the West Coast. His shirt was almost entirely drenched in sweat.

"I think Tulsa is a great place to live," he confirmed. "It's going through a lot of growing pains right now, where the infrastructure's being rebuilt, we have a lot of new folks moving in...But I'm bullish on Tulsa. I think it's going to be a great place to live in the future."

"And in the present," he corrected himself.

"Sometimes the crime statistics are a little bit scary," said Tiffany Hoover as she clutched her granddaughter Emily. "But otherwise, it's a nice city. Nice people for the most part." The Sapulpa native said her maternal instincts keep her a little wary when she brings her grandchildren into the city.

David Wheat, 14, ended up being the only person I talked to who had never lived outside of Tulsa. He was a little less thrilled about the city.

"At first it was fun at times, but it's got nothing to do here."

I grew up 20 minutes from the beaches of South Florida; I can empathize with being bored by places others love.

"But downtown's kinda fun, though," he admitted.

"We found a great community and it's very special," said Dana Nates. The Israeli-Argentinian contemporary artist moved to Tulsa eight months ago. "My daughter is super happy, and that's the best thing for me. That's a reason for staying."

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Every single person I talked to - every adult, anyway - used the same word when speaking with me: "community." It seems that, no matter where you're from, the people of Tulsa are intent on making you feel right at home.


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