Finding resilience after a tornado

May 13, 2014

Vilonia, Arkansas
By Carlo Allegri

A U.S. flag sticks out the window of a damaged hot rod car in a suburban area after a tornado near Vilonia, Arkansas April 28, 2014.REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The phone rang past midnight. It was my editor asking if I was available to jump on a plane at 6 a.m. to cover the devastating tornado that had raged across central Arkansas just north of Little Rock.

An upturned truck lies under a tree that has lost most of its branches, following a tornado near Vilonia, Arkansas, at sunset April 28, 2014.  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

On a layover in Dallas, I found out our editors had arranged an aerial photo flight so we could get pictures out to our clients early the next day. When I landed in Little Rock, a shuttle was waiting to take me to the private side of the airport for my charter. This pre-planning meant there was no wasted time.

After about an hour of the roughest, most turbulent flight I’ve ever had over the hardest-hit areas of utter devastation, we turned around and headed back to the airport.

Men use boards as paddles as they search though the debris of what is left of homes in a lake after a tornado hit the town of Vilonia, Arkansas April 28, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

When I landed, I uploaded a wide selection of photos to my editor Adrees Latif to prep and file to the wire, while I headed out in my rental car to provide coverage from the ground.

Being up in the sky gave me an advantage; I knew exactly where to go. This planning and teamwork made for a long but very efficient day of shooting.

Uprooted trees are pictured after a tornado hit Vilonia, Arkansas April 28, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Gallery: Tornado damage from above

A man pours gasoline on a wrecked car in Vilonia, Arkansas on April 30, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Gallery: In the tornado’s path

Workers clear debris from what used to be the kitchen and look for treasured articles at Darwin Henry's house in Mayflower, Arkansas April 29, 2014. Henry who had lived in the lakeside home for 27 years said he was happy his wife had passed on last year and didn't have to witness the destruction. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Aerial view of the central town after a tornado hit Vilonia, Arkansas April 28, 2014.  REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

If it was possible, the situation on the ground was even more heartbreaking than it looked from the air. The tornado cut through a subdivision of Vilonia with surgical precision, leaving one group of houses largely unscathed while leveling the house next door down to the concrete foundation.

Theresa Long stands outside her destroyed house in Mayflower, Arkansas April 29, 2014. Long said she painted the sign on the wall to let her friends know she was ok after not being able to get on Facebook to tell them of her survival. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Congregants of The Valley Church hug as they clean up what is left of their chapel in after a tornado hit Vilonia, Arkansas April 29, 2014. The church was leveled and they plan to hold a service on the concrete slab that the building stood on. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

I met some amazing people – people with compassion, resilience and a love of God and country.

Larry Loving sits at the corner of what had been his garage beside his destroyed home in Vilonia, Arkansas April 30, 2014. Larry has terminal cancer and decided last week before the storm, to forego further treatment. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The most touching of these was Larry Loving, a man who just days before the tornado hit had decided to forego anymore treatment for his terminal cancer so he could enjoy his last days with as much dignity as possible.

Personal belongings seen in the debris field of Larry Loving's house, after a tornado hit Vilonia, Arkansas are pictured in this combination picture taken April 30, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

He, his wife and two of their three children, all of whom are in the military, sifted through what was left of their home, searching for any significant artifacts to keep. After all that, they plan to rebuild, they said, because “we are Americans; that’s what we do.”

Michael Stanek hugs his daughter Kennedy Stanek as they take a break from helping friends sift though the rubble of their homes in Vilonia, Arkansas April 30, 2014. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Gallery: Sifting through the rubble

One comment

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Why do people in the USA keep building those cheap, fragile wood houses? Especially in tornado-affected areas, it shouldn’t be allowed at all.

Posted by SBEP | Report as abusive