“I served in Iraq for four years,” said a resident of Picher, OK, I was talking to today. “I’ve seen blown up things, but I haven’t seen anything like this. It looks like someone dropped an A-bomb on the place.” Now, I’ve never seen any place where an A-bomb has been dropped, and I hope I never have the chance, but this was a pretty telling description of what just happened to this troubled town.
I had been working on a project about Picher, OK. Saturday night I got an email reporting of a tornado ripping through the town. I then drove all day Sunday to get here. Tornado destruction is strange. The path of the tornado is complete other-wordly devestation, like the guy I was talking with had described. But outside of the tornado’s path, there’s very little signs of anything out of the ordinary having occurred.
Trying to document something like this effectively is surprisingly difficult. It’s so overwhelming. Everywhere you look there are houses flattened, cars toppled, and panels of metal roof wrapped around trees as if they were frozen pieces of wet paper. The material world does strange things in the whirling wind of a tornado.
So as an observer you’re dumbstruck. What don’t I photograph? How do I transport anyone to this never-never land?
Both Sally, left, and her sister Nancy had hid in their bathtubs during the tornado. Sally’s house was destroyed and the only reason she survived was because she had enough sense about her to climb in her tub after hearing that the tornado was coming to Picher on her scanner.
After all Sally had been through, she was worried about finding her purse because she didn’t want anyone to steal her identity by finding her social security card.

Posted May 12th, 2008 in Uncategorized.

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