The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Tornado: Multimedia coverage

June 25, 2011

VIDEO: YouTube video producers document damage

JOPLIN, Mo. — In the days after the May 22 tornado, Christopher Duncan Rutherford tried to navigate around Joplin, but got lost in the town where he has lived for the past 10 years.

“I was driving through neighborhoods, and I didn’t know where I was,” Rutherford said. “There were no street signs. And that made me think about that U2 song. It matched up.”

As people process and begin to deal with the realities left behind by that tornado, a manifestation of that coping has appeared on video sharing sites, such as YouTube. A simple search reveals countless slideshows that feature pictures of the damage set to inspirational or emotional songs.

Rutherford made such a video, only using live-action filming. Set to U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name,” Rutherford’s video features stretches of damage along streets. It shows many of the landmark locations destroyed by the tornado, and ends with a portion of President Barack Obama speaking during a memorial service.

It was impossible to get a sense of the amount of damage from the single shots on TV news programs, he said, and that drove him to make his own video.

“I was not happy with the news coverage of the damage, because they didn’t seem to capture it,” Rutherford said. “Anderson Cooper came but stayed in a parking lot. He didn’t do a lot of trekking around.”

Rutherford said that his video, which is essentially a music video, didn’t really capture that same impact, either. But it still had an effect, according to comments left behind by viewers.

“It took on a life of its own,” Rutherford said. “A lot of people said it was inspirational. This morphed into something a little more than I intended.”

Another video coincided with a June day of national recognition. On Flag Day Geoff Caldwell posted a video featuring all sorts of flags on display amid the rubble and refuse.

Caldwell is employed by Empire District Electric Co. Part of his duties included surveying damage to power lines and substations.

As he was out in the damage zone, he noticed a lot of American flags flying.

“My first day out, I started seeing flags. The next day, there were a couple of dozen; the third day, there were even more,” Caldwell said. “That really struck me. I just started snapping pictures.”

The pictures were meant for personal use at first. But after seeing picture after picture of damage, he decided to share his flag pictures with the world.

Set to patriotic music played by military bands, Caldwell’s video is a collection of his flag pictures. Some of the flags are new and colored boldly; others appear to be as damaged as the debris surrounding them.

“The way I approached it, I was just documenting history,” Caldwell said. “Those flags will be gone, so I wanted something for posterity. This is who we were at that moment.”

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Tornado: Multimedia coverage