Sunday, January 22, 2012

Thoughts about Tornado "Tourism"

Tornado Tourism Maps: Controversy in Joplin, Mo.

"Tornado Tourism." It's apparently the next phase of a natural-disaster, at least in Joplin, Mo.

The city's Convention & Visitors Bureau now has maps highlighting spots of special viewing interest from the horrific EF5 tornado of May 2011 that killed 161 people.

Local hotels are handing out the maps, too.

A spokesman says the maps are not meant to capitalize on the destruction, but to provide education.

Local residents disagree. Read the comments on the Facebook page of Joplin radio station Newstalk 1310.

And some 700 people to date have "liked" another Facebook page, Joplin Citizens Against Tornado Tours.

So the perception is that the maps are about tourism. Not education.

And this perception, real or not, is now the reality.

The other reality? There was nothing to like about the Joplin tornado. Watch this video, especially the end:

In crisis management training, I talk about the general stages of a disaster:
  • Preparation / Training
  • The event
  • The aftermath
  • The response
  • Recovery
  • Lessons learned / Training
  • "Anniversary" coverage, (e.g., "It's been one year since... .")
In addition to the loss of life, the Joplin tornado caused more than a billion dollars in damage.

Eaten to the ground were entire neighborhoods.

A damage map from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is jaw-dropping.

And now the tragedy is the stuff of an apparent new phase in natural disasters: "Disaster tourism." Follow the map - see destruction.

There are lessons and memories from the Joplin tornado that should never be forgotten.

The community needs to recover, first.

Yes, the event should become a "living" source of education and awareness, too.

But people need to rebuild, and decide how best to honor memories through future generations.

And do so before tourist buses and “looky-loos” decide their own paths.

Supporting a long-term recovery featuring compassion, sensitivity and respect would seem to be a better role for the Convention & Visitors Bureau...than "education" maps about this tornado.

Healing a community should come before any appearance of promoting historic tragedy.

After all, as it says on the front-page of the Bureau's website: "Welcome to Joplin...We're Just Right."

Show us "right."

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