Saturday, September 03, 2011
The story behind 5:41: Stories of the Joplin Tornado
Since the tornado struck Joplin May 22, most of my writing has centered on it, and that includes the new book, 5:41: Stories from the Joplin Tornado,” which became available online Saturday.
The book, which is co-authored by Carthage Press Managing Editor John Hacker, almost did not get written. The thought of writing a book about the tornado did not occur to me in the days following and was planted in my mind a couple of weeks later by a Daily Beast/Newsweek reporter who had interviewed me.
As I walked with the woman through tornado-stricken areas, talking with people who had lost everything, but wanted to share their stories, my first thought was to share them through my blog, The Turner Report. The reporter, Terri Green Stirling, suggested a book. I gave it some thought and had pretty much decided against it, because I thought any book on the Joplin Tornado needed photos and I did not have many.
Then I thought of John Hacker. John worked for me at The Carthage Press in the 1990s and has developed a reputation as the best spot news reporter in southwest Missouri. He is also an excellent photographer, who has specialized in weather photos. After talking with John, we began working on ideas for the book.
The one thing we did not want was to write a quick, cheap book to cash in on a disaster. Unfortunately, a check of Amazon.com shows a couple of books that came out within days of the tornado, including one that is only 24 pages long and sells for $12.
We were more interested in telling the stories of those who survived the tornado and those who became its casualties.
5:41 includes the following:
-First person accounts from tornado survivors, including a St. John’s emergency room physician, a Carthage artist who was visiting a relative at Freeman, a Joplin High School sophomore whose doctor father heroically worked with patients while their family home was destroyed, a Diamond High School graduate who is ready to move back to the country after waiting out the tornado in a shelter as his house was blown away above him.
-My coverage of the funeral of Joplin High School graduate Will Norton, the first person story of a St. Louis woman who came to Joplin to search for Will Norton, but who has continued to volunteer and has created a whole organization in St. Louis to help, and the story of the death of an Ozark Christian College student while she attended Sunday services.
-John Hacker’s powerful on-the scene reporting and photography moments after the tornado, plus his features on Joplin Fire Chief Mitch Randles, volunteers who helped in the days and weeks following the tornado, and a Sarcoxie soldier who saved lives at the 15th Street Wal-Mart.
-Details on how Missouri Southern State University and McCune-Brooks Hospital stepped up to help after St. John’s was hit by the tornado.
-My essays on the day after the tornado and my return to my damaged school
-A feature on how the Zimmer Radio stations kept the area and the world informed about what was going on in Joplin.
-The final National Weather Service report
-Obituaries and life stories of those who were killed.
-The complete transcript of the Joplin Tornado Memorial Service at Missouri Southern State University, including speeches by Rev. Aaron Brown, Gov. Jay Nixon, and President Barack Obama.
That is only a partial list of what is included in the 228-page volume.
The book is available at its e-store, https://www.createspace.com/3639440 and is also available at Amazon.com.
The first book signing has been scheduled for 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, September 24, at Hastings in Joplin.