Friday, June 3, 2011

Joplin: Analysis of a Disaster

In the following clip, a group of 20 people ride out the Joplin F5 tornado in the cooler of a gas station.  You can't see much in the video, but you can hear all the sounds--especially what people say.  This provides some insight into how people react when disaster strikes.

Disasters can bring out the best in us.  In this case, the right decisions were made and lives were saved.  Watch the video, and then continue on for the discussion.

Isn't this a chilling video?  There's something about hearing voices and sounds in the dark.  It's similar to a scene or two from the movie, Devil.  What can we learn from this video?

#1) There is no silence.  Throughout every second, at least one person is talking or screaming.  It's almost as if we humans need to express ourselves when disaster strikes.  Now think of those disaster movies where people stare in awe and in silence.  Sorry, directors!  It doesn't happen in real life.  In contrast, there are some disasters where silence is warranted--that is, if you make a sound, you're toast.  Steven Spielberg is very good at handling these situations.  He always shows how the victim wants to scream/talk/cry, but fights the urge in order to survive.

#2) Cliches run rampant.  Before watching the video, if you had made a list of things you'd expect to hear people say, chances are you'd be right.  I know all the writing classes say to avoid cliches when you write; but what if you desire to capture something resembling real life?  The cliches in this video add to the surrealism.  Could be a useful technique (if only I could get it past the editors).

#3) No F-bombs.  At least there's that one absent cliche.  Twenty random people shoved together in a tiny space during a horrible disaster, and not a single F-bomb?  Writers who love to have all their characters swear like a sailor: take note!  Most people just don't swear.

#4) Humans still have the ability to get close to each other.  Most places we go, strangers are people we're not supposed to talk to.  At least that's how it seems, nowadays.  Anyone could be the next psycho.  Someone could be there to rob the cashier or, heaven forbid, someone might ask you for money if approach them.  It's better to avoid eye contact, make the transaction, and get out of there before someone runs off with your car.  Do you know what I mean?

Then comes a disaster, and all of a sudden everyone becomes best friends.  The facade we all put up falls, and everyone is completely honest with each other.  They're considerate.  They're protective.  Humans do what they're really supposed to do all the time. 

I'm one who believes that humans are inherently good.  I just wish that we didn't have to wait for the next disaster to be reminded of this.

Check out this video to see what's left of the gas station after the storm:

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