By Kelsey Ryan
JOPLIN, Mo. —
When Jim Forbes, a chief photographer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, came to Joplin on May 23, he started taking pictures.
“When first light came up, I saw the amount of destruction in every direction,” Forbes said. “I was actually working on autopilot. I didn’t want to think about what I was looking at.”
On Friday, 34 of Forbes’ photos from the Joplin tornado will be available in a silent auction at the Regional Arts Commission’s center in St. Louis. The event, called Journalists for Joplin, will be held from 6 to 9 p.m. at 6128 Delmar Blvd.
Forbes was in Joplin the day of the tornado for a relative’s birthday, and he left just hours before the storm hit. After hearing that his relatives were OK and getting the go-ahead from his boss, Forbes and his wife made the trek back to Joplin late that night. He said his niece, Sean Fowler, lost her home in the tornado, found temporary housing and then lost that, too, leaving her homeless.
“I felt like taking pictures wasn’t enough,” Forbes said. “I heard about other ways to help and make things better. That’s one way of trying to get people to keep that in their mind and to still do something for the people of Joplin.”
The Regional Arts Commission donated gallery space and is coordinating volunteers. People who want to bid but do not want to keep the photographs will have the option of giving the photos to the Joplin Historical Society or the Spiva Center for the Arts, Forbes said.
“I thought, ‘Who’s going to buy pictures of disaster?’ But I didn’t want to put my pictures of birds and flowers up,” Forbes said. “I want people to have this in their face. I want them to look at it and want to donate.”
Money raised from the auction will go to the Community Foundation of the Ozarks’ Joplin Recovery Fund.
Meanwhile, Joplin Expats, a nonprofit organization, has raised $1,480 in donations for Mary Crane’s journalism classroom at Joplin High School.
Andrea Hicklin, Joplin Expats co-founder and vice president, graduated from Joplin High School in 1995. She was the photo editor for the high school newspaper and yearbook. She said some of her fondest high school memories were in the journalism classroom.
“A lot of the friends I have today are friends I made working on the yearbook and newspaper,” Hicklin said. “We used to sneak in Dude’s doughnuts into the darkroom.”
Hicklin, who now lives in Washington, D.C., said the group formed within 48 hours of the tornado hitting Joplin as a collaboration between University of Missouri journalism alumni and former Joplinites. The group aims to connect Joplinites with former Joplin residents and to aggregate resources to help the city.
“There’s a historical aspect: Newspapers and yearbooks help chronicle the history of not only the school, but the town in the last 100 years,” said Kirsten Snyder Eklund, who helped found Joplin Expats.
Said Crane: “It sounds like such a little thing, but each time I hear from somebody who wants to help, it sounds like a vote of confidence. I’ve had an amazing response.”
Crane said she thought the archives of the high school’s Spyglass newspaper were unsalvageable when she first saw them dripping wet after the tornado.
After she and students attempted to dry them with hair dryers, she resorted to calling a professional drying service. The archives have been saved, and Crane is now looking at having them digitized. A complete set of yearbooks also was recovered.
Crane said the money will go toward new computer monitors, camera equipment, enlarged digital pictures and other supplies.
Crane’s classroom is one of several fundraising projects the Joplin Expats group is coordinating. Fundraisers have been held in Washington, and plans call for more in Chicago and New York City.
Details are available at joplinhighjournalism.chipin.com/journos-for-journalism. Checks for donations are to be written to “Bright Futures Joplin” with “Adopt-a-Classroom: Mary Crane (Journos for Joplin)” in the memo line. Checks may be mailed to Bright Futures Joplin, c/o Kim Vann, North Middle School, 102 S. Gray Ave., Joplin, MO 64801.