Tuesday, September 06, 2005

katrina and floyd

From Donna Campbell, a filmmaker and friend who lives in the triangle. I had also made the connections, from going with flood relief teams to Princeville with friends from Mount Tabor United Methodist Church in Winston-Salem. I heard these stories as we gathered for a Wednesday evening covered dish meal at one of the churches. Donna writes:

"If you are like me, the news of the day is taking your minds and hearts back to those days just after Hurricane Floyd in eastern North Carolina (September 1999). The flooding there was unexpected; people were unprepared and desperate. Many of the reactions in Princeville, Tarboro and surrounding towns were just like those we are seeing in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast now--though much different in scale, of course. Just after the water subsided, I spent six weeks down east with a crew from UNC-TV, producing what ultimately turned into three broadcast documentaries about the aftermath of Hurricane Floyd, how it affected the people there. And that experience will inform and affect my work for the rest of my life.

When we first began to interview folks after the flood, they were still in shock. Everywhere we stopped, people just wanted to tell us what they had been through. We were overwhelmed by the stories we heard, stories of heroism and stories of despair, stories we recorded that (mostly) never made it into our shows. People just needed to tell what had happened to them.

We started referring to it as video therapy. Something about the camera gave people a sense of confidence that they might be heard, that someone out there might respond. And, in the end, I believe those stories did help to inspire citizens of North Carolina to volunteer and send money.

But the basic truth is that the human stories are what we are all hungry to tell and hungry to hear. So when some of the urgency subsides, I might find a way to go to the Gulf Coast and help document the stories of what people are going through. And I am wondering if any of you are thinking about the same thing.

The tragedy of Katrina is just beginning, I'm afraid, as all those thousands of people try to recover. I dread the news still to come. And I am sad to think of all the news we won't hear once the commercial TV teams move on--the confusion and despair when moved away from home communities to the temporary housing, the frustrations of dealing with FEMA, the depression, the loss, the grief. It's like Mrs. Baker, the 83 year old funeral home director in Princeville told me, quoting Hamlet: "When sorrows come, they come not as single spies, but in battalions." And I know there is nothing any of us can do to stop it.

But I am also asking whether we as the "documentary community" might find ways to help record the stories still to come from this tragedy. Be in touch if you have ideas".

Thanks for all you do.
Your old friend, Donna
Donna Campbell
Editor/Producer, Minnow Media


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