I’m grateful for people in Oklahoma running into tragedy instead of away from it

I lived in Oklahoma for years, and so many people I love are in or near Moore.

I’m first so thankful that my people are safe. My best friend’s kids go to school just a few miles south of Moore. My 9-year-old called my friend’s 8-year-old last night to make sure she was okay and tell her he loves her.

Second, I’m heartbroken for the people whose lives just got torn apart. I can hardly bear to think about the parents and the children.

Third, I’m grateful for the first responders. I think of first responders as the people who run into tragedy rather than away from it, with a goal of helping. And while that of course includes safety and medical personnel, in my world, it also includes journalists.

Journalists in the Oklahoma City area are working around the clock to not only keep those of us far away up to date about what’s going on on the scene, but more importantly to bring that information to their own neighbors in shelters, staying with friends, working as first responders or wondering how they can help. I heard so many government or nonprofit officials say during interviews yesterday that they were getting their information and perspective from news reports, same as everyone else.

It’s easy, and understandable, to question the role journalism plays in a culture where information is everywhere. But imagine during a situation like this if there weren’t people committed to asking the questions we all have and to being our window into the tragedy.

It’s especially poignant for me, since I learned how to be a journalist while covering an Oklahoma tragedy. Every since the OKC bombing, when I was 20, journalism has been a way for me to cope — to have a purpose during times of disaster. Disasters are also what I think of first when I hear people question why journalism is worth investing in.

As a long-distance spectator, I’m grateful for the news footage, the photos, the questions, the facts and the survival stories. I’m grateful for the people who hug their own children, then head back out to talk to parents who have lost theirs. Who verify and share the names of people missing before they sort through the rubble of their own neighborhoods.

To the non-journalists out there: If you find yourself in a conversation about where you get your news, whether you trust journalists, or what role journalism has in your life, think about what you did when you had vital questions yesterday, and what it feels like to want to know something you can’t know on your own.

4 Comments on “I’m grateful for people in Oklahoma running into tragedy instead of away from it”

  1. Sue Gronberg says:

    I’ve been including all news folk in my prayers for first responders, Joy. I remember how our friend Joe Worley scheduled his newspaper writers and photographers with time on, time off, and counseling during coverage of the OKC bombing–wise editor and thoroughly decent man.

  2. Jane Bowerman says:

    Recovery and coping will be very long term
    Jane in Norman

  3. Joy Mayer says:

    Sue, a lot of newsrooms are recognizing the importance of caring for the emotional health of the staffs during times like this. I remember dealing with it during the bombing, even as a college student. And one of my dear friends went on to work at the Red Cross, feeling like that was more her role in the situation than covering the tragedy.

  4. Joy, having just now discovered your Twitter site, I am moved by your May 2013 account of the Moore, OK tornado and its aftermath, including your thoughts on journalists as first responders. I, too, was reminded of the April 19, 1995 destruction of the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City. At the time, I was working for a small Christian bookstore in Kansas City, MO. When I returned home and first heard about it from my husband, I couldn’t believe that none of our customers had mentioned it. Later I asked a young salesman at the bookstore who was from OKC about the bombing. He told me it happened his first day on the job for the Christian supply company he was to represent and he had arrived as some of its employees were heading downtown to donate blood. He joined them.

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