Andy Rieger didn’t ask for help, and, initially, I don’t know if he wanted it.
I remember the feeling all too well.
“No, no, we’ve got this,” I told friends from other newspapers when they called two years ago. “We’ve covered tornadoes before.”
But, of course, we had never covered an EF-5 tornado — until May 22, 2011.
Rieger, the editor of The Norman Transcript, a sister paper to The Joplin Globe, is in the trenches today, and I can feel his angst in my own gut. You see, he, his reporters and photographers will spend their Memorial Day weekend treading through mountains of debris and despair in Moore, Okla., just like we did here two years ago. And, just like us, they also will be expected to cover a visit from President Barack Obama and continue writing stories that inform and inspire.
The similarity of circumstances is eerie. The scenes and the stories are all too familiar. Moore’s May 20 brought our May 22 back to haunt us again.
In this newsroom, the day before Joplin would observe the second anniversary of the 2011 tornado, we knew that Moore, Okla., was where we needed to send our journalists.
A Joplin team — 10 police officers, two medics and two firefighters — had already headed out Monday night. Early Tuesday morning, I dispatched Roger Nomer, a Globe photographer who was one of the first to start photographing the scenes on Joplin’s Range Line two years ago, and Andra Bryan Stefanoni, a Globe reporter who wanted to help and get “boots on the ground.” A few hours later, Alexandra Nicolas, our digital producer, was right behind them.
I appreciated Joplin police Lt. Sloan Rowland’s sentiments when he told us: “It wasn’t a question of whether we were going to go, it was a question of how quick we could get there.”
And that, dear readers, is what is still right with this world.
Joplin, as it should, will turn its attention to Moore, collecting funds to help them in the rebuild. City leaders will help the town — about our size — put together a recovery plan. Residents from throughout the area will head that way to cook meals, pick up debris and help organize chaos. It’s not that we are equipped to do that better than anyone else — it’s just that we are looking for a way to help someone else for awhile.
Roger and Andra returned to our newsroom on Thursday, tired, broken-hearted and maybe even feeling a little guilty, because they were able to leave the horror.
Alexandra is still in Moore helping the Norman paper in any way she can. She will be back with us on Tuesday.
As for the staff of the Norman paper and for the residents of Moore, the work will continue.
One thing I know is that with all those extra hands comes the warmth and fellowship of new friends.
Carol Stark is editor of The Joplin Globe. Address correspondence to her, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802 or email email@example.com. Follow Carol Stark on Twitter @carolstark30.