The Devastation of Moore, Oklahoma
Introduction by Nicholas Carron
Many Americans were confronted with dizzying, continuous news coverage of Moore, Oklahoma soon after a violent tornado destroyed a large portion of the municipality. Much of the content that was broadcast appeared fleeting and impersonal, intended to inform a mass audience that was too busy to digest the story’s true value or presented in a way that entertained rather than enlightened.
I’ve followed Lynda Martin on Instagram (@_imageconjurer) and EyeEm (@imageconjurer) closely over the years, and have been continuously amazed by her ability to spark my imagination, bring me into her world, and prompt me to visit her library of highly-conceptual compositions again and again. Whether it’s merely through one image or a cohesive series of pictures, she has consistently shown that effective mobile photography offers the viewer contemplative pause and often speaks louder than words. Such was the case when I first came across her personal documentation of Moore, Oklahoma. I immediately asked her to share her constructive series, not only to promote the convincing storytelling qualities of mobile photography, but to advocate Lynda’s mission to support various causes and efforts to help the community recover.
The cleanup and rebuilding process in Moore will be extensive and costly. Below are links if you would like to make a contribution to the City of Moore. They are in need of financial aid as well as volunteers to assist with clean up.
On the afternoon of May 20, 2013, a catastrophic EF5 (wind estimated 210 mph [340 km/h]) tornado struck the town of Moore, Oklahoma, USA, killing 24 people and injuring another 377. The tornado was on the ground for 39 minutes and left a 17 mile (27 km) path of destruction that was 1.3 miles (2.1 km) wide at its peak.
It is estimated that 1,150 homes were destroyed and damages are estimated at $1.5 to 2 billion. Briarwood Elementary School and Plaza Towers Elementary School were destroyed by the tornado. Seven children perished at the Plaza Towers Elementary School.
I’ve lived in tornado alley my entire life and it is not unusual to spend a spring evening watching weather forecasters track tornados and alerting viewers to take cover. When a tornado warning is issued, family and friends often call to make sure everyone is aware. We watch the sky closely in this part of the country, especially during tornado season. Never before have I felt compelled to visit the aftermath of a tornado. I’ve always been afraid to witness the destruction firsthand. I suppose it is because I fear nature’s violence and randomness. With little warning the world can change in a matter of seconds. It could happen to anyone. It could happen to me.
Thirteen days after the tornado, I drove north for two hours and found myself standing in the midst of a disaster area. I tried to comprehend the vast amount of devastation and loss this community has suffered, overwhelmed by knowing the scene stretched for miles and affected thousands of families. Through my bewilderment one thought persisted: I need to record what I am seeing. People need to understand the extent of the catastrophe and how monumental the task of rebuilding will be.
A homeowner graciously invited me to photograph the storm shelter where he along with his family and neighbors, weathered the tornado. Nine people took refuge here while their homes were destroyed. The gentleman shared his frightening experience along with a story about how he and some neighborhood boys rescued an elderly neighbor who was pinned in the room where she took shelter. Fortunately, although the lady was injured, she survived. This humble hero respectfully declined to be photographed or to give his name.
Moore Medical Center (in the background) took a direct hit from the tornado. Although the hospital structure was a complete loss, 125 employees, 30 patients, and 250-300 residents seeking shelter survived without serious injury. The community hospital ruins will be demolished.
A team from Central Oklahoma Habitat for Humanity in Oklahoma City assists with cleanup.
All photographs were taken with an iPhone 5 using shooting apps ProCamera, Camera+, 6×6, or 6×7. Images were edited on an iPad (3rd generation) using Snapseed with a final filter from Laminar Pro.