The next Editors’ Roundtable, which will run on Monday, looks at a story on the tornado that hit Rainsville, Ala., earlier this month. Unfortunately, tragedy has struck again, and journalists have had to write additional disaster stories about the devastation of Joplin, Mo.
Next week we’ll provide an in-depth look at just the Rainsville piece, but for now, we wanted to highlight some other efforts to tell the stories of a shattered town and help readers understand what’s been happening there.
“When Everything Is Gone, Including a Sense of Direction,” from Dan Barry, Richard A. Oppel Jr. and A.G. Sulzberger of The New York Times (via @alixfelsing)
Heading south on Main Street, you pass intact buildings and a seemingly undisturbed way of life, save for the inordinate number of people wearing shirts that say Red Cross or Federal Emergency Management Agency or Army Corps of Engineers. An honor guard of flapping American flags urges you on.
All seems fine, until about 15th Street, when unnerving signs of damage come into view. It is slight at first, a blown sign here, a damaged roof there, laid out as if to prepare the visitor, however gently, for what is ahead. Five short blocks later, a wasteland.
The first of two YouTube clips from izelsg* shows the power of audio; it includes sound and (very little) imagery recorded as the Joplin tornado moved over about 18 people who had taken shelter in a convenience store. This second clip revisits the spot and lets viewers see the devastation that the people from the first clip survived.
*who appears to be Isaac Duncan, a 23-year-old singer-songwriter
“Torn Asunder: How the Deadliest Twister in Decades Ripped Through Joplin, Mo.,” from David Von Drehle at Time (via @tomshroder)
An EF-5 tornado pens a signature that makes no sense. You stare and ponder until slowly it comes into focus: that’s an upside-down, half-buried piano; a garage-door spring; the colored gravel from a fish tank; a car bumper entwined in a brass bed; a flat-screen TV with a door molding straight through it; the little man from the top of a soccer trophy; a Barbie shoe. Clean up suggests a return to an orderly past. In the coming weeks and months, Joplin will have to scrape bare a blasted hole in its heart.
“A gloomy night spent searching for life,” by Michael Overall of the Tulsa World (via @gangrey)
A dog barks in the distance. A helicopter rumbles overhead. And from somewhere deep under the rubble across the street, an alarm clock is beeping.
But nothing comes from the debris where the firefighters are standing, and after a few moments, the firefighters start to dig.
Five or six strain together to lift a bathtub, turning it on its side.
The victim apparently did what experts say to do. Seek shelter near the center of the house, perhaps a bathroom. Lie in the tub.
The firefighters stop and bow their heads.
“As it recovers from tornado, Joplin can take lessons from other cities,” by Eric Adler, Scott Canon and Rick Montgomery of The Kansas City Star (via @alixfelsing)
When the Kents emerged and looked at the devastation around them — some houses obliterated, others sheared in half — they stood, in many ways, in exactly the same situation as tornado survivors in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and in Greensburg, Kan.
Kent, 52, an environmental engineer, knew that from that moment on “everything is different.”
“It is like 9/11. There will be life before the tornado. And there will be life after the tornado.”
What comes next?
Where will Joplin be a month from now? Where can it be in a few years?
And finally, here’s Brian Stelter, Media Decoder at The New York Times, on the challenges of being a newly-minted disaster reporter in Joplin and how Twitter did and didn’t deliver the story in a pinch.