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Extraordinary People

Aired December 16, 2014 - 21:00   ET


ANDERSON COOPER, AC360 HOST: Hey, I'm Anderson Cooper welcome to the Special Report, Extraordinary People


You know, who's ever been in a live changing or a live threatening situation and look back at your reaction and though, "I didn't know I had in me." It's that aspect of the human spirit that we're looking at today in extraordinary people.

COOPER: Yeah, people who raise to occasions and didn't -- in some cases know they had it in them. In the next our you're going to meet people Gary Dahlen. He's a pilot who plunge his helicopter to into smoke to lead a dozen fire fighter away from a wall of fire and certain death. We're also going to meet Ron Johnson, the state highway patrol captain. Everyone would remembers him, he took a unique approach with demonstrator this summer when tension in Ferguson Missouri trying to spiral even more out of control.

MEADE: And you're going to see first hand just exactly what for Fatu Kekula was up against in Liberia.

COOPER: She's missing.

MEADE: Yeah, when this nursing student took her house and turned that into a hospital to prevent her parent from dying of Ebola. And there's Kevin Durant the MVP who's accepted speech became such a touching tribute for his mom that he describe as the MVP.

COOPER: Yeah, my mom was like "Why don't you make a speech like about me?" First though we want to introduce to Kevin Vickers he's a humble man who found himself in the middle of the shooting attack on Canada's Parliament Building and he took a chance to stop the attacker in his tracks.


COOPER: October 22nd, Ottawa, Canada's capital city. Here soldiers stand guard at the war memorial. (inaudible) then gun shots.

At approximately 9:52 shots rang out, there were two soldiers on duty ceremonially guarding the memorial. One of them, Nathan Cirillo was shot to death and the gun man started running where Parliament area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Move out everybody. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need to leave.

COOPER: Parliament the seat candidate government where hundred of legislators and the Prime Mister, were disrupted by the sound of gunfire. That's were sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers was about to become a hero.

So who is Kevin Vickers?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kevin was my big older brother. Just a kind of Loki (ph) guy, didn't get really too excited about things.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So Loki (ph) that Kevin Vickers won't talk about what happen on October 22nd. John Vickers says he knew he's brother Kevin was hero even when the kids were growing up, along Canada's Miramichi River.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All the big kids decided to swim across the river. Well, my younger brother Will (ph), he got into some trouble I wasn't able to continue, Kevin swim over and got his arm around him and Will (ph) realized he was hold across the river by his bigger brother. Kevin's been hero from a very young age because of that incident.

COOPER: Kevin Vickers has joined the Royal Canadian Mounted Police when he has 20 years old.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was all about service. It was never ever a job.

COOPER: Steadily raising through the ranks until a high point in 2006 Vickers, was elected sergeant-at-arms a position with mainly ceremonial duties.

But that wasn't the case on October 22nd. The gunman Michael Zehaf- Bibeau was convert to Islam and according to officials, driven by ideological political motives.

After the war memorial shooting that killed Corporal Nathan Cirillo, security camera footage captured scene a panic as he hijack the car and race on foot to Parliament door.

The gunman runs up through this main entrance. There are no metal detectors on this entrance. It's normally used by reported, members of Parliament, people with proper credentials. Once you enter the building then when shots begun.

JOSH WINGROVE, REPORTER OF GLOBE AND MAIL: As the shooting begun I move behind this pillar which.

COOPER: Josh Wingrove is a reporter with a newspaper the Globe and Mail. He captured the most dramatic video of the incident inside.

Prime Minister was right over here.

WINGROVE: Prime Minister right in there. So, you know, 300 people, prayer Parliamentarians total just any of the door way, you know, have to have chairs being piled as makeshift barricade again this doorway.

MYLENE FREEMAN: Knowing that the doors couldn't be lock and hearing that much fire power was really shocking.

COOPER: Mylene Freeman was one of Parliamentarians.

FREEMAN: It was an intense moment for everyone within the room. We, you know, heed under desk.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, sorry, no.

FREEMAN: I think we were all afraid for our life.

COOPER: Afraid until Kevin Vickers made his stand.

WINGROVE: I got in the moment after the first exchange just down another hall is the sergeant-at-arms Kevin Vickers.

COOPER: Evan Solomon is the reporter and host of Canada's network CBC. He obtained exclusive details of how the incident transpired.

WINGROVE: Kevin Vickers in his office, he grabs the pistol from his lockbox and he immediately exit down his hall which is very close to where Bibeau is, he goes right to the other side of the pillar. So you have to imagine this, on one side of the pillar now is the shooter on the other side of this pillar is now Kevin Vickers with his gun.

There's a moment of tension according to the guards, who want the sergeant-at-arms to leave. But Vickers doesn't do that instead Vickers instantly dives around the pillar holding his pistol and as he dives he rolls onto his back and shot upwards at Bibeau. And he hits Bibeau and then falls on his back. Vickers continues to empty his magazine into him. Then the rest of the security team immediately rush forward and they begging shooting.

COOPER: After the gunman is dead, this is the last image of Vickers in the hallway that day, coolly leaving the scene.

24 hours later Vickers returned to his post.

FREEMAN: I'd say the whole building, in the front of the large building, the whole building was up and cheers and standing. It was very emotional. There were people who were crying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In my life it been very few times I've ever seen Kevin show emotion. It was really something that you tell the expression on his face that he was just holding it together.

COOPER: From there the legend of Kevin Vickers has only grown.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I get the cartoons with James Bond and there's Kevin.

WINGROVE: And as everyone knows it's been compared to the Bruce Willis by Stephen Colbert.

STEPHEN COLBERT: The hell with Bruce Willis. This Canadian just put the A (ph) in Yippee Ki-Yay mother (inaudible).

COOPER: But despite the adulation Vickers, shone the stoplight.

WINGROVE: I've asked him, do an interview and he says "I will never talk. I did my job. And I want to get back to doing it".

COOPER: At one time Vickers house spoken on camera. It was to refuse to talk further and to share the credit.

KEVIN VICKERS: This is not about me this is about how House of Congress security service. The incident occurred in October 22nd was magnificently handled by a complete team effort.

FREEMAN: Kevin Vickers is absolutely a hero and he's a humble (inaudible) man that I genuinely feel and felt at that moment that he had save my life that day.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The nation needed Kevin. They have the right guy, at the right time, at the right place.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A head a community in chaos.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It seems like something out of 60s.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The captain in charge to fix it.

DON LEMON: Do you think you can do it?



MEADE: In August, Ferguson, Missouri erupted into protest after police officers shot to death 18 year old Michael Brown. When the summer demonstrations threatened to rip the city apart at the scenes a state highway patrol captain was asked to help bring peace. And Ron Johnson took what some thought was unconventional approach with the protesters. Don Lemon has the story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I told you to get out here.

RON JOHNSON: It had seemed like something out of the 60s. Nobody saw the magnitude of it initially then it just kept growing and growing.

LEMON: Watching in disbelief was Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson. He wasn't assigned to be there but came anyway to quietly support his troops.

JOHNSON: I began to see people that I knew out on that street. And you know when you see fire and you heard gunshot and you see people that you know they tell me that I needed to be there and I remained and I kept going back.

LEMON: And you had to help?




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When do we want it?




LEMON: With Ferguson cops at the middle of the controversy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got weapons too.

LEMON: The Governor turns to the highway patrol. Colonel Ron Replogle is a superintendent of the Missouri Highway Patrol.

COLONEL RON REPLOGLE, MISSOURI HIGHWAY PATROL: I was called into the Governor's office here in Jefferson City. And he was placing us in charge. And at that point it was decided on recommendation for me that be Captain Ron Johnson.

LEMON: A locally grown trooper with just the right temperament.

REPLOGLE: He's a very compassionate person. That's one of Ron's strengths. You know, that's exactly what we were looking to do is to calm emotions and bring some trust of the situation and certainly Ron was the right person for the right time in the right situation.

GOV. JAY NIXON, MISSOURI: Today I am announcing that the Missouri State Highway Patrol under the supervisions of Captain Ron Johnson, who grew up in this area, will be directing the team that provides security in Ferguson.

LEMON: It would be his biggest assignment since joining the Highway Patrol 27 years ago.

JOHNSON: This is my original I.D. card when I became a trooper.


JOHNSON: And that's the original badge that I had. And my badge number is 326. While it is worn and tattered I keep that just to remind me of where I started.

LEMON: He follows in this father's footsteps.

JOHNSON: This is my father. He was a police sergeant at St. Louis University and he passed away in 2012. You know we talk about heroes and people ask I wanted to be a police man and that's because this was my hero.

LEMON: For more than 10 years Johnson has led the largest state patrol troop in the area.

JOHNSON: When I became a police man it was to make this community better.

LEMON: And this community never needed him more than in this moment.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stay on the road.

LEMON: When the Governor called you, you were probably telling everybody well I don't think so, but did you know?

JOHNSON: I don't think I wanted to know because the magnitude was so large of what I saw. And not knowing if was strong enough to face it.

LEMON: You didn't think you can do it?


LEMON: But you wanted to?


LEMON: Why are you crying?

JOHNSON: You know, sometimes I guess, you know, you put that uniform on and you think you can take on the world. And you believe that you're invincible. And God can humble you just when you think you can't be humbled.

LEMON: Johnson took action immediately.

JOHNSON: We are going to have a different approach and have the approach that we're in this together.

I left that press conference and I knew that there was a march that was going to occur. And the pastor that was in charge of that, I knew her. And so I asked her if I could march with the group. And she says I'd rather you not. The air was just out of me. Surely I knew she was going to tell me yes, invite me in. So I need to do it for me because this is a part of who I am. This community is a part of who I am. And I said I'll march in the very back.

LEMON: Johnson finally overcame the pastor's objection and started the healing by joining the marchers.

JOHNSON: And she looked at. She says no, I want you to march in front with me. And I told people that was a changing point.

LEMON: For the first time since the shooting his approach ushered in an era of calm.

JOHNSON: Then as we marched people started coming up to me and extending their hand and shake my hand. And then people started coming up to me and giving me hugs and to saying thank you. And I started going to walking and shaking people's hands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No justice, no peace.

LEMON: That simple act of connecting and communicating shifted the atmosphere within hours.

JOHNSON: I'm a man first, a black second. I'm a husband. I'm a father. I'm a son, a trooper.

LEMON: Right by his side his better half Lori.

So you're college sweethearts?

LORI JOHNSON, RON'S WIFE: We are. We've been married 26 years.

LEMON: What does he do when he's not working?

L.JOHNSON: His favorite hobby is riding his Harley. I ride with him at times. And it's such a stress reliever for him.

LEMON: Stress goes with the job and so does danger. Early on a veteran trooper advised the young couple to live each day as if it were their last.

L JOHNSON: One of the things the Colonel at the time told us was make sure that you kiss spouse before they leave to go off every morning.

JOHNSON: All right, see you later. Bye.

L.JOHNSON: And it wasn't to scare us or anything. But it was just to let us know that we don't know what dangers they face when they are trying to protect and serve.

JOHNSON: It's about the justice for every one. It's not about...

LEMON: With her husband on the front line in Ferguson's riots all she could do was pray for his own safety.

Do you worry at all that you would lose him?

L.JOHNSON: That thought crossed my mind when he would walk out amongst every one and I would see he didn't have on a vest. And that just scared me.

LEMON: You had a conversation with him. What did you say to him?

L.JOHNSON: It was one of the more violent nights. And I said, "Ron, please wear your vest. The kids and I need you. Please wear your vest." Then he said, "Promise. I promise."

JOHNSON: I appreciate it.


LEMON: Ron Johnson has many roles, black man, cop...

JOHNSON: What's going on?

LEMON: ... father. All of which was critical when it came to calming a community reeling from the death of a young black man.

JOHNSON: And we all ought to be thanking the Brown's for Michael because Michael is going to make it better for our son's so they can better black men.

LEMON: He also talks about your son publicly in about what this case means especially for young men of color.

L.JOHNSON: Ron is always talking with Brad about the differences that he may experience driving, we always told him when he turned 16 you do what your told. Just make sure you come home.

LEMON: The profiling.

JOHNSON: The profiling or having to tell my son and daughter about when they go certain places if they're stopped how their demeanor needs to be. I think people had probably never really heard of policeman will come out and say that those things were true.

LEMON: It was a new and necessary message.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

LEMON: From a man many call a hero.

Are you a hero?

JOHNSON: I don't think so. But my daughter sent me a text and she said Dad, you're my hero. And so that recognition of hero I will accept.

LEMON: That's it. You're done. You don't have to accomplish anything else.

JOHNSON: No, I'm not. You know, my son and daughter and wife were the world to me. When my daughter was born I said that God sent me an Angel. He sent me compassion. And I said when I had son God gave me courage and so if they look at me as a hero that's all that I need.

MEADE: Coming up, battling the deadly Ebola virus and winning.


COOPER: It's a devastating epidemic, doctors, nurses, hospitals across West Africa are frankly overwhelmed or unable to care for all the people sick with the Ebola virus. Thousands have died so far. So when one young woman saw her father turned away from over crowded hospitals, she decide to treat him herself. Armed with nothing more than plastic bags, rain boots and stockings for protection she managed to save three infected family members. Elizabeth Cohen has her story.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Death, despair, devastation. The plague of Ebola ravaging Liberia. In the midst of this horror a remarkable story of lives saved by this young woman.

Growing up in the poverty stricken town of Kakata, Liberia 22 year old Fatu Kekula has been surrounded by disease and death. That's why she always wanted to make a difference to become a nurse.

Three years ago Fatu enrolled in nursing school.

FATU KEKULA: I don't like to see suffer. Yes. And I really wanted to become a nurse. And I would people, saving life of my fellow Lebanese.

COHEN: But Fatu never imagined that before even graduating she would have to battle a deadly epidemic beginning in July when her father was infected with Ebola.

KEKULA: He started to put on the symptom. He is vomiting, he is (inaudible), he has fever, he has fever. So that was when we decide to take him to town at the center. But when we went they rejected him. We went to see the facilities at night.

COHEN: Three hospitals turned him away?


COHEN: Three hospitals overwhelmed with gravely ill patients. Finally one hospital near their home admitted Moses but Fatu said no one was treating him. As her father became sicker and sicker Fatu knew what she must do. Take her father home and treat him herself.

We're you scared to bring your father with Ebola home?

KEKULA: I was not afraid. I was not afraid.

COHEN: Why weren't you afraid? Ebola spreads.

KEKULA: Of course, of course but I had faith. And that's why I'm here today.

COHEN: You had faith and you had knowledge too, right?

KEKULA: Yes, I have knowledge.

COHEN: You knew what to do.


COHEN: Fatu isolated his father in one room of the house hoping to prevent the disease from spreading to other members of her family. But she couldn't. Within days her mother Victoria, sister Vivian and cousin Alfred got sick.

KEKULA: I was treating them all by myself. No one ever. All by myself.

COHEN: She was forced to improvise.

So we're in Fatu's house and she's going to show us how she geared up to be a one woman Ebola hospital.

KEKULA: I was using protective gear, my own protective gear that I developed, black plastic bag, rain boots, long trousers, hair covered, mask.

COHEN: They must have been so sick?

KEKULA: Yes, they were very sick.

COHEN: So sick they almost died. At times their blood pressure dropped so dangerously low she feared they were gone.

KEKULA: I cry many a time, I cry. I cry. I said God, you want to tell me that I will loose my whole family.

COHEN: But Fatu kept fighting with little support or equipment to help her.

Up o 10 times a day Fatu suited up in her home made protective gear to nurse her family back to health. Fatu consulted her family doctor on which medications her family needed. She bathe the, fed them, gave them fluids through I.V.s, nursing them around the clock and yet she never got Ebola.

After weeks of caring for her mother, father, sister and cousin they were finally admitted to a hospital. Their cousin Alfred passed away. But Fatu had saved the other three members of her family.

Do you owe your life to her?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: More than my life. Because her -- I can say even though God we well she saved my life (inaudible).

COHEN: When UNICEF heard about Fatu, they begin teaching others for invented methods.

Hoping to steam a raging epidemic and homes as well as hospitals.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very much proud of Fatu Kekula for the marvelous work that she did through the power of Almighty God.

KEKULA: I'm really proud because (inaudible) them. Was (inaudible) very proud of myself. And (inaudible) we are very proud.

COHEN: You're quite a nurse. And you're not even officially a nurse yet.


COHEN: Fatu is supposed to be in her final year of nursing school. But because of Ebola epidemic the schools in Liberia have closed. Her father hopes Fatu can continue her education.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm on my knees to pray so that she can find a scholarship. COHEN: He's prayers might be answered. After hearing Fatu story a nonprofit organization is racing money for Fatu to finish nursing school in the United States.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm sure she would be a giant of Liberian.

COHEN: Fatu hopes to prove her father right. She plans on launching her own nonprofit group to educate her community and how they can protect themselves from the epidemic plague in their country.

Just a head one man race to safe a dozen lives.

GARY DAHLEN: I knew if they stay their going to die.


COOPER: Hey, welcome to extraordinary people. You may remember back in June of 2013 there are 19 hotshot firefighters were killed in Prescott Arizona. We just saw a horrific tragedy. They were trying to control a rapidly expanding forest fire.

Well, helicopter pilot Gary Dahlen was very much aware of those of loses as he hustled in September of 2014 to help 12 men trap by a wide fire near the town of Placerville California.

MEADE: Now only Gary because he was flying high above the flames it became fire could actually see the way out, so this rescue was going to require some good flying skills, he's reassuring voice from the guy that someone later regard as their guardian angel.

The Eldorado National Forest in the Sierra Nevada Mountain, picturesque, tranquil but not as past September.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The fire is absolute monster up here.

MEADE: The King Fire as it was called rage for almost a month. It relentlessly burn more than 97,000 acres. It force families from their homes and destroy dozens of dwellings.

Veteran helicopter pilot Gary Dahlen was trying to chip away at the inferno one 240 gallon water bucket at a time.

The King Fire, how would you describe it to this point?

DAHLEN: Explosive, yeah this particular day is when it really took off 15th of September. Several miles into the forest captain Kevin Fleming was leading his exhausted crew on foot.

KEVIN FLEMING: We had worked 24 hour shift and then a 12 hour shift that day and the day before. And the flames were coming up.


FLEMING: I think in that timber there.

MEADE: Kevin had a crew called the Devil's Garden Five made up of 10 none violent inmate firefighters and one bulldozer operator.

They had just contained to stop fire above them on the hill side.

FLEMING: I turned around and saw that all these trees were on fire, then the fire was then about to overrun the bulldozer and us.

MEADE: Neither could see the fire was this close, fog has blocked their view.

KEVERY WATERS: When I look at my back window. In seen at the fire it was already right behind on that.

MEADE: Kevery abandon the bulldozer and sprint back to the others and then they realize that they were trapped.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: About 20 seconds later we decided that we were going to deploy fire shelters.

MEADE: Their small tent such a hope will lack an oxygen for you and block out the fire deadly heat.

19 firefighters in Arizona's Yarnell Hill Fire 2013 deployed there, but didn't survive.

FLEMING: When it comes time for you do it yourself it really seems surreal because it's your last option.

MEADE: Little bit of call Kevin eventually got out despite dying batteries and he's body GPS to indicate his location.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Devil's Garden Five has been overrun. We are in a safety zone, with shelters (inaudible) immediate air support.

MEADE: Helicopter pilot Gary Dahlen meanwhile heard air call from dispatch.

What did you hear on that call?

DAHLEN: All available helicopters prepare for an emergency launch. And I've been doing this 28 years and I've never heard that terminology before. So, I just jump in and started it up.

MEADE: And with that Gary was on the tier to get to the trapped men 10 miles away.

DAHLEN: Everything in front (inaudible) fire. Is there smoke column were gone to probably 30,000 feet. OK, now were right over the fire then started call the guys.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We got in fire shelters slide up over here and then we heard a helicopter.

DAHLEN: I saw all the fire shelter down there below me and look at this way and just saw the wall of fire coming.

MEADE: You could tell that if they stayed in those fire shelters. DAHLEN: I know if they stayed their going to die.

MEADE: From his bird eye view Gary could also see a possible escape route. He radio Kevin with what he later admitted was a risky recommendation.

DAHLEN: I estimated they had about three minutes to run about 200 years. I told them you need to get out your fire shelters and you need to follow me. We need to run fast.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We started running down the road and I figured he could see the big picture, so I just went with it. And that's when he said.

DAHLEN: Keep going guys, that thing is coming.

From my perspective of course my adrenaline was going. And it seem like they were just kind of (inaudible) along.

Keep going. Get out of the way of that thing. Keep running.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Branches and burning pine cones and dust devils and fire whirls, everything started falling down around us.

DAHLEN: Of course, I was worried. I wasn't ((inaudible)) that they were going outrun this fire.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But when we got around the corner up here is where I can see ahead of us and I figured -- at that point we weren't going to make it.

The fighter flight mechanism had kicked in and we are running through the (inaudible).

MEADE: Now exhausted with all of their equipment left behind.

Listen on this next transmission when they realized they successfully outran the wall of flames.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just outran the (inaudible). We almost got it.

DAHLEN: And I'm flying around like this trying to locate the guys on the road and they make surface around the right road.

OK, there is a two track there that's going to lead you to freedom.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We ended going 4.5 miles until the nearest clearing where Gary's helicopter and another one pick up all 12 guys.

MEADE: Paint me to that which of that moment when you finally saw them emerged.

DAHLEN: Yeah, that's when it gone interesting because Kevin came walking up to me and he said, are you the guy -- the captain who was leading us out of there? And said, "Yes." And he just gave me a bear hug. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I might have held on to him for a little bit.

DAHLEN: I said to him, and I said, 'You guys have the luckiest son's of a bitches on the planet."

MEADE: Back at the based the team could contact loved ones, crew member Angel Vera (ph), dialed Kristina.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And we use to see that it was really scary what happen that he really want to die like that and that he just wanted to tell me and his daughter that he loves us.

MEADE: Gary's bravery that day in September of 2014 didn't impact just the 12 people caught in the king fire.

So, we have a little surprise for you.


MEADE: And that is, that we have a letter that the wise of one of the people in the crew that you saved, her name Mrs. Vera (ph). I want you have you read it out loud

DAHLEN: Not only for myself but on behalf of Angel (ph), our children and grandchildren, our extended family and our many friends. Words can never express ...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Words can never express how grateful and blessed we are that you risk your own life to save my husband and everyone else's life that day. You are ...

DAHLEN: You are true angel in the sky. True hero.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Truly thankful, Ms. Vera (ph).

DAHLEN: I've seen enough death in what I do and like these guys has been good runners in saving themselves.

I guess that's what makes it emotional for me that this one has happy outcome.

COOPER: And next.

KEVIN DURANT: God know what I was going to say once I walk out there.

COOPER: But what Kevin Durant said melted the hearts of mothers everywhere.

DURANT: You're the real MVP.


COOPER: At six feet, nine inches tall, with hundreds of millions of dollars and endorsements of feature film role, NBA Star Kevin Durant has a lot of fans. But earlier this year, he picked up some more in extraordinary moment off the court. It was a single speech. It was filled with emotion and gratitude. And Durant went from being a coveted sports fantasy league picked to your mom's favorite ball player.

On May 6 in front of fans, friends and family, Kevin Durant was awarded the top individual honor in basketball. One of the best players in the world focused his acceptance speech outward as he thanked everyone.

DURANT: First off, I'd like to thank God for changing my life.

COOPER: Singled out every teammate.

DURANT: I didn't fall in love with it just because it was me playing. I fell in love it because I've got guys like this that push me to be the best player I can be.

And last, my mom.

COOPER: And most of all, touched the hearts of millions when he praised his mom.

DURANT: The odds were stacked against us. We weren't supposed to be here. You made us believe. You kept us off the street, put clothes on our backs, food on the table. When you didn't eat, you made sure we ate. You went to sleep hungry. You sacrifice for us. You're the real MVP.

COOPER: For Kevin, acknowledging his most valuable parent was a no- brainer.

DURANT: Your moms do so much for you men and make it possible for you to do anything you want to do.

WANDA PRATT, KEVIN DURANT'S MOTHER: I was expecting him to mention our family and sacrifice, some of the sacrifices that we made for him but I didn't know it would be to that magnitude.

COOPER: And either did Kevin.

DURANT: I didn't know what else I'm going to say once I walked up there. It kind of hit me at one time. I just freeze out of it. It was just so many people along the way that push me that to help me out and encourage me.

COOPER: Encouragement Kevin felts he needed to make it out of Seat Pleasant, Maryland, the small town just outside Washington D.C.

DURANT: As a kid, I didn't know. I thought that was, you know, being a Seat Pleasant being in that Maryland P.G. County area that was the biggest, you know, at the rest of the world.

COOPER: A world that began and ended at the Seat Pleasant Wreck Center and safe haven in the top neighborhood.

DURANT: I remember like in yesterday in Wreck Center was part about two miles away from my grandma's house and I would run two miles to the gym, every single day, nonstop. I was running really because I want to get to that neighborhood and host a lot of stuff going on, so I would run through just to get to (inaudible), which is the gym.

COOPER: At times, he spent all day and night here even sleeping behind the curtain in the gym.

PRATT: At the Wreck Center (ph) there was a lot of love and concern and compassion and passion for the children there and that's what we gravitated too.

COOPER: And Kevin rarely want to leave the gym, he does have fun memories of home when he, his mom, and brother, lived with his grandmother.

DURANT: We don't have to worry about thing but doing your homework, come home, we want to sleep at a reasonable time. We just lived off a pure joy and love. Men that's when everything was simple.

COOPER: It was simply and filled with one but Wanda needed a place of her own. She and her two boys would live at grandma's house moving from place to place until Wanda's determination head off.

DURANT: Ma say save some money up and (inaudible) apartment over on, the decent part of town wasn't, you know, too rough but it was better. It was ours. That was the main thing.

PRATT: It was really a big time for me because I was stepping out on my own away from my mom and ahead to be stable from my kids and for myself. And so that was a huge accomplishment for me. And so what I have done is before all of our friends arrived, the three of us went to the apartment just to celebrate.

DURANT: No bed, no furniture, and we just all sat in the living room. We just hugged each other because that's what -- we thought we made it.

COOPER: Wanda pushed her children to work hard and dream big just like she did.

DURANT: You wake me up in the middle of the night in the summer times, making me run up a hill, making me do push-ups, screaming at me from the sidelines of my games at eight or nine years old. We weren't supposed to be here.

PRATT: I knew that you can achieve whatever you want to achieve as long you're willing to put in the hard work forward and so I made it my responsibility to teach him that, no never give up, to never quit, and to always push yourself beyond which you think you could achieve.

DURANT: I didn't have a planned B, I just want to be a basketball player, put all my eggs on one basket when I was eight years old and I told my mom, I said look, this is what I want to be that's why I'm going to do everything today to get to where I want to be. COOPER: Kevin wanted to play pro basket. Today, he is a bona fide superstar, having made his way from high school to the University of Texas to the NBA. He's make sure to get back to the places that are meant so much to him along his journey.

And he is a hero in his new hometown Oklahoma City. When a massive tornado tore to the nearby City of Moore, Durant pledged a million dollars in relief to help the devastated city rebuild.

DURANT: When I went there, I've seen all these families and they were just smiling and then happy that they ever alive. Everybody wants to say that I hope those people are good at me. I think they held me a little bit more.

COOPER: Generosity, hard work and humility that make Kevin a fever with fans and teammates.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He is always been a very unselfish guy. I can remember, I think maybe about two years ago, when he had a cover shot for one of the magazines and, you know, he made him change their cover shot to put all the (inaudible) on the magazine.

COOPER: Kevin included them in the magazine and his nearly half hour speech.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You know, some people outside might have thought it's a bit long winded but for the people in our building who is talking to, man I turn to us.

COOPER: More testimony than speech, Durant made sure his trophy didn't solely define who he is.

DURANT: I'm a Christian man first of. I'm working in progress. Basketball life is in short compared it to the rest of your life. I've learned that these last two years basketball is my life. It is what I do. It is what I love to do but and so much more to me as a man.

COOPER: The new season begun, Kevin found himself sideline with an injury. Another challenge to conquer as he pushes toward capturing the NBA championship that is so far has eluded him.

DURANT: In my profession it's always about MVP is cool but you have to win the championship. One championship is cool but you got to win two. Two is cool but you got to win three. Men we never really appreciate the moment.


COOPER: An MVP award perhaps somebody an NBA title, with Kevin Durant they're all steps along the way if it's unlikely an incredible journey.

DURANT: That's an NBA to add 18 and coming from a lot of form, a lot of kids don't make it to C.A. team so to do something has never been done in my neighborhood it was my championship. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

COOPER: Hey thanks for joining us this past hour. I hope you've enjoy meeting these extraordinary people.

MEADE: You know it's striking about them right in the last hour that we seems these people are so selfless.


MEADE: Willing to put themselves on the lines to risk getting shot, burn, sick, what have you.

COOPER: Yeah. Risking their own lives for a complete stranger at times or for family members, just amazing. On the case of Kevin Durant a willingness to share his glory.

MEADE: Thank you so much for joining us. I'm Robin Meade.

COOPER: I'm Anderson Cooper. Have a great day.