Sunday, May 4, 2014

"Goodbye, Mama": Instant Communication Drives Home Tragedy Of Tornado Deaths

Last week, I was following the tornado outbreak in the Plains and Southeast with an immediacy that was unimaginable even a decade ago.
A before and after view
of an Arkansas neighborhood
hit by a tornado last Sunday.  

A tornado would touch down somewhere, and a couple minutes after it did, there was an image of it on Twitter.

I could follow live video streams of the storms, watch local television stations warn the public, and listen to police scanner traffic of the unfolding disaster, all in real time.

Then there was this story that came out of Arkansas of the immediacy of tragedy. A EF-4 tornado west and north of Little Rock claimed 15 of the 37 lives lost in the tornado outbreak.

Regina Wood said she was giving her understandably scared college age son Jeffrey Hunter, updates via text on the big tornado as it approached him in Vilonia, Arkansas last Sunday 

The house apparently had no basement, and he had no time to run, nowhere to hide. His mother kept trying to encourage him as he holed up in a bathroom.

As the tornado started to tear the house apart, Hunter was able to send one last text.  Said Wood: "I have a text on my phone as the tornado was hitting, 'Goodbye mama.'"

Hunter indeed died in the storm. The one, slight consolation for Wood is thanks to modern technology, she knows she was among her son's last thoughts before he died.

But I also have to wonder if it hurts more, knowing the details of what he was going through, the increasing panic as the storm approached. And the helplessness Wood must have felt as the tornado closed in on her son, and she could do nothing about it.

I shudder just thinking about it.

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