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New London - A clamor of hammers and shrill of drills pierced the tranquility of a Saturday morning on Brainard Avenue, home to a classic old house that is about to become a home. The future O'Neil-Lopez home.
And then the chop saw roared through more wood as paint brushes slathered paint about. And there, around back, was Kalana Greene removing shingles with a tool, a shovel-looking thing whose name no one knew. There was Renee Montgomery, high on a ladder removing aluminum siding, Kara Lawson watching her nervously. Mike Thibault trying to decipher the intricacies of a power tool. DeMya Walker, always the fashionista, with paint in her hair. Stefanie Murphy with paint everywhere else.
"If I had a hammer …" assistant coach Scott Hawk, the man who always knows what to say, said, hammer in hand.
This is the rattle and hum of Habitat for Humanity. This is how it sounds and feels. This is how it sings. This is how it looks with members of the Connecticut Sun family doing their part as part of the WNBA Cares initiative.
Soon, Alix O'Neil, a basketball player at Mitchell College and New London High grad, will live in the big white house, with her mom, Jennifer, and the family.
"This is real life," Thibault was saying.
This is humanity.
Humanity. All morning, that word was as prevalent as all the bangs and roars. Humanity. That word. Humanity. It's the difference really between what we do and who we are.
And walking through the house, watching all the earnestness — even chuckling as Asjha Jones recalled her days doing drywall on a previous Habitat project — I kept thinking about Margo Dydek.
How perfect she'd have fit here on a day when humanity was personified.
Dydek is a former center for the Sun. She is the kindest, gentlest soul to have worn the uniform, a 7-foot-2 sophisticate.
Margo, 37, suffered a heart attack a few days ago and remains in a medically induced coma. She is three months pregnant. There isn't much other information on her condition, other than it happened while she was living in Australia with her husband and two other children.
"Luckily it was morning, when her husband was at home,'" Margo's sister, Katarzyna, told the Associated Press. Katarzyna said an ambulance arrived in five minutes and resuscitation began immediately.
"We're optimistic as the results of the tests done in the hospital are proving positive," Katarzyna Dydek said.
Margo's uniqueness had little to do with her appearance, all 7-2 of her. She was exactly the scene at 13 Brainard Ave.: The hammers and drills caught your attention for their blatancy. But inside, the message was of an enduring kindness.
That was Margo. She wouldn't dunk on an opponent because it was just never the right thing for her to do. Criticize her game? You have the right to your opinion, she'd say, without a hint of resentment.
"A lot of people, they get mad because I cannot get mad, but I can't help it," Dydek said once. "A lot of people, they try to push me (into getting mad) and whatever, but it just makes me laugh. Sometimes, not too often, I do get mad, but it has to be really awful. (Being mad) is not good."
Sun radio voice Bob Heussler told a story the other night about watching others watch Margo. In airports, especially. It was gawking. And never, not once, was Dydek anything but genteel. Even on days after practice, watching Dydek fold herself in and out of her Toyota Corolla was something of a pastime.
Always a smile. Always.
Lindsay Whalen called her "Large Marge." Katie Douglas preferred "Margie." She had a killer deadpan wrapped in an eastern European accent. It never got better than the story about when American teammates were playing with Dydek in Poland. They asked Margo how to say "thank you" to their Polish coach.
Dydek told them the words for "You should retire."
I pray for her. Anyone who has ever known her does as well. Margo is the best description of humanity outside of the scene Saturday at 13 Brainard Ave. May the spirit that was in that house make its way to Australia and bring her out of the coma. We need Margo. And all she stands for.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.