Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tornado stories: Video and reflection from Pleasant Grove

We joke in the news business about the curious, bizarre or scary things we see on stories: babies being born, domestic foibles, natural disasters. Each of us in media relations at UAB has those stories; we're all "former" reporters -- nobody ever fully recovers from that first hit of adrenaline in a big breaking news story.

But the tornadoes that ripped apart parts of Alabama Wednesday had us all muttering a cliche-laced lexicon of disbelief. Oh my god. I've never seen anything like this. Oh my god.

On Friday, chief videographer Jeff Myers and I went with one of our expert faculty, Josh Klapow, to one of the hardest hit areas, Pleasant Grove, Ala., as The Weather Channel interviewed Josh about "psychological first aid" -- basically, how to cope with the world when the world as you know it no longer exists.

Jeff shot the b-roll above. He's seen his share of chaos and hostile situations. He's chased tornadoes, covered Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill and multiple Iron Bowls. After so much storm coverage he says scenes of destruction don't bother him much. What he means is that it doesn't interrupt his job performance. He's steady, but as concerned and worried as the rest of us.

In the video you can see Josh being shot by a videographer for The Weather Channel and NBC. After live interviews, The Weather Channel asked if they could shoot b-roll of Josh talking with local folks. He did, and they opened up. One man asked Josh to talk with his wife. "She's been traumatized," he said. Another man talked calmly for a few minutes before crying.

People stopped by, looking for their dog. Others came to visit their church, which had recently been renovated; its roof now sat in the parking lot.

The Media Relations team has been working to identify stories about patients, faculty, students and staff. We'll continue to cover the stories as long as they're relevant. It's been six days since the tornadoes came through. Disasters last much longer.

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