What Stands in a Storm

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Monday marks the fourth anniversary of a massive tornado outbreak where 62 tornados raked across Alabama in a single day.  More than 250 people died from those storms on April 27, 2011. Writer Kim Cross chronicles that time through several personal stories in her book What Stands in a Storm.  It grew out of an article she wrote for Southern Living magazine.  She spoke with WBHM’s Andrew Yeager.

 

An extended interview:

 

Interview Highlights

Developing the book:

I really started by looking at children’s books about meteorology to understand the basics of tornados.  And then from there I graduated to textbooks and a lot of interviews with meteorologists.  I wanted to wrap my head around the magnitude of the storm…That one day was part of a three day outbreak that affected 21 states from Texas to Canada.  It was just massive.

I wanted to understand the event and then I wanted to tell it through the people who lived it.  I really wanted it to be literary nonfiction where it reads like a novel but it’s all based on reported fact.

Kim Cross is the author of the book "What Stands in a Storm."  The book chronicles the time around the April 27, 2011, tornado outbreak.

How technology helped her reporting:

The families of several victims friended me from from their victims’ Facebook page and they also shared with me text conversations recovered from their phones.  And between these two things I felt like I was able to really get verbatim dialogue that was timestamped and that reflected what they were thinking at a very specific moment in time.  So whenever I say that someone is thinking something or express their inner thoughts like a novelist would, that comes from either a social media post or a text or something that they said they were thinking to a primary source that was able to recount it to me.

 

Reaction from victims’ families:

One of the things that I did to fact check this that I don’t think a lot of journalists do is I sat down with each of the families and had a private reading where I read aloud every chapter in which their loved one appeared…I wanted to make sure the first time they experienced it was with me and not alone in a room and we cried together.  We cried the ugly cry.  And it was really good for both of us.  And it was closure I think in this big long really difficult process.

Andrew Yeager

Andrew Yeager

Host/Reporter