On April 27, 2011 I was in Tuscaloosa when the EF4 tornado struck killing 44 people. Rosedale Court apartments received a direct hit from the tornado. I arrived there just a few minutes later and began documenting the devastation.
At Rosedale Courts I walked toward the devastation and was met by walking injured heading toward arriving ambulances. Some were bleeding and walking alone. Others were aided by first responders and many others were being helped by concerned citizens.
As a photojournalist I’ve had to photograph the aftermath of quite a few tornadoes. I was in Tuscaloosa when the December 16, 2000 tornado struck. So I can’t say I was stunned or surprised by what I saw on April 27th. But I have noticed and noted a few things after photographing the aftermath of such tragedies. The number one thing I’ve noticed is that there are no political, racial or class differences in the few minutes after a tornado has struck a populated area. Everyone becomes just a “human” for those times that it matters and seeks ways to help regardless of skin color or political persuasion. When people are laying dead or dying after a natural disaster, the superficial, socially constructed walls magically fall away and folks become what they should be at all times- caring and kind to one another.
The second thing I’ve noticed is that people have to rationalize and look for meaning in the senseless death of so many. If there is a reason for such tragedies and if we must put meaning to it, perhaps that is it. To show us what we really are or could become outside the realm of tragedy- color blind, always caring and always kind.