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Solnit and the North Carolina Tornadoes, Storms

April 17, 2011

After hearing and reading about the disastrous tornadoes that struck North Carolina this past week, I couldn’t help but to think back to Rebecca Solnit’s “The Uses of Disaster.”  For those of you that haven’t heard, there was a series of three days of storms and tornadoes that fatally hit parts of the southwestern United States.  North Carolina received the majority of the disaster, while Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Oklahoma were affected, as well.  Latest reports claim that at least 39 total people were killed.  Andy Mussoline, a meteorologist, claimed “I expect that total to rise, unfortunately.” (Barnett).  The surrounding areas were greatly affected, as well.  “Many communities have downed trees, downed power lines and a significant amount of debris on the roadways” (Barnett).  The following video shows a view of some of the damage.

Now, after reading about this disaster, I think Solnit’s views about the togetherness and generosity of people after disasters are evident in this instance. One report from a Lowe’s Home Improvement exemplifies the unusual camaraderie discussed by Solnit that resulted from the disaster.  In this instance, the manager of this Lowe’s saw the dangerous storm approaching and “he hustled more than 100 customers and workers” (Berger) to the back of the store before it collapsed.  Despite the building being completely destroyed, all of the customers and workers were able to escape the situation safely, mainly because of the manager’s valiant effort.  This example proves the “rare sense of fellowship in an atomized region” (Solnit) that Solnit describes after a particular disaster.  In this situation, the manager acted valiantly to help save not only himself, but the people around him, as well, which included customers that were most likely completely strangers to him.  This proves Solnit’s claims on disasters bringing people together, but her feelings of “sense of excitement,” and “ordinary life positively festive” (Solnit) are not exactly portrayed in this case.  Just days after the tragedy, people are not exactly enjoying the moment or in relief.  After seeing two young children trapped under trees, local homeowner Guillermo Villela cannot see anything but tragedy: “I see a lot of disaster. It’s bad.” (“Tornadoes, Storms Pummel NC”).  Moreover, an Iraqi war veteran posed some pretty disturbing thoughts when comparing the disaster to his experiences in the war: “He did two tours of duty in Iraq and the scene was worse than he ever saw in Iraq — that’s pretty devastating” (Berger).  Even with the heroic efforts of certain people, the tone and attitude in the environment following this disaster is far from upbeat and optimistic.  While Solnit’s ideas of continuity and togetherness between people comes to light in this situation, it is obvious that the encouraging and memorable atmosphere, which she highlights in many cases, does not exist in the affected regions.

Works Cited
Barnett, Ned. “UPDATE 2-Death Toll Hits 39 after U.S. Tornadoes, Storms | Reuters.” Business & Financial News, Breaking US & International News | 17 Apr. 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <;.
Berger, Joseph. “North Carolina Bears Brunt of Tornado Rampage.” 17 Apr. 2011. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <;.
Solnit, Rebecca. “The Uses of Disaster: Notes on Bad Weather and Good Government.” Web. 17 Apr. 2011.
“Tornadoes, Storms Pummel NC ::” – Raleigh News, Weather, Triangle Traffic and NC Lottery. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <;.
“U.S. Storms Kill More than 40 –” – Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. Web. 17 Apr. 2011. <;.

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