Friday Firesmith – Disaster Tourists

Last Sunday, January 22, 2017, a series of very strong storms ripped through South Georgia with heavy rains, strong winds, intense lightning, and at least three different killer tornadoes. The storm hit in the very early morning, people were still at home, and the storm made assessment and recovery a very real problem for the survivors, some of who were standing outside in the storm, having crawled out of the rubble of what was once their homes.
There, in the post dawn darkness with torrential rains still falling, lightning still cracking through the sky, and dead bodies lying in the streets and in the yards of those who were injured and maimed, rode the Disaster Tourists.

The Disaster Tourists were driving by slow, windows down, cell phone at the ready, taking photos and making videos of the carnage, and even before the first rescue vehicle arrived, there were FB posts showing dead people in the aftermath of the storm.

Later in the day, as the storms passed by and rescue operations were ramping up, the Disaster Tourists were clogging the road, like those people who go out and look at Christmas light in December, or if you’re from Wal-Mart, late September.

A friend of mine told me there were people at the church he went to, crowded together looking at the videos they had made. Take a moment with that one. Here are the people who, according to what they say they believe, ought to be the first to get out and help, but they’re too busy sharing each other’s Tweets to get out into the streets.

Eleven people died. Dozens of homes were either totally destroyed or seriously damaged. First Responders had a maze of debris and destruction to wind their way through in Adel Georgia where most of the fatalities occurred and there were people in the way, cell phones hanging out of their windows, making their FB locally famous for almost an entire day.

. The people who survive the event are stunned beyond reckoning at the sheer magnitude of the violence and horror of what they’ve gone through. Their homes have been smashed to pieces, their belongings missing or unrecognizable, their vehicles twisted and ruined, their pets killed, their ability to communicate muted, their neighbors ravaged by the same storm, and there, driving by, going around the wreckage to get a better shot, is someone who is excited as hell at the photos or the video they’re getting making public the misery of their fellow human beings.

I’ve been at ground zero of a tornado aftermath. I’ve worked with FEMA in Mississippi after Katrina. I’ve seen things that still leave me flinching at the sound of high winds. I’ve seen things that words can hardly describe. I spent eleven days in Mississippi and never took the first photo, and to this day I do not regret it. I spoke with far too many survivors who spoke with utter contempt of those people who thought it was so cool to drive by and take photos of the lives of people who lay in total ruin.

You people who do this ought to be ashamed of yourselves.

Take Care,


Mike writes regularly at his site:  The Hickory Head Hermit.
Opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the management of this site.

16 thoughts on “Friday Firesmith – Disaster Tourists”

  1. Totally agree with you on this one, as I do on so many things, Mike. Those people should be ashamed of themselves, but they won’t be, they have no capacity to feel shame, there seems to be something missing in them.

  2. Agreed. Sadly, it’s human nature. How often have you been slowed to a crawl on the highway by rubber neckers looking at a car crash? I think it makes people feel better because it happened to somebody else, not them. I traveled to New Orleans in late October 2005. The city was just beginning to re-open after Katrina. There were companies offering Hurricane Tours through the 9th Ward and other devastated areas. People. Can’t kill them, can’t live without them.

  3. It was the same after the tornado in Joplin, Mo, in 2011. Our store, or what was left of it, was on Main Street and it was wall to wall cars for days. But there’s a good side to people too. We had friends and family come to help, some we hadn’t seen in years. And people came from all over the world to help rebuild.

    • Sleepy, there were a lot of rescue and charities that rode into Mississippi after the storm. I saw a lot of selfless people out there trying to do whatever they could.

      Storms bring out the very worst in some people and the best in others.

  4. Paul is right about human nature, we are as a species curious monkeys. The people Mike describes will probably say they are sharing information with their friends on the net. This is of course total bullshit, they’re really saying look at me, me, me. The people on the net seeing, and telling their friends to look too, are less guilty. Human nature again, curiosity, but they don’t stop to think they are fueling the click-seeking assholes who post this crap.

    If you’re at the epicenter of a disaster(don’t go there if you aren’t), and compelled to take pictures, send them to the TV stations and hope they will be judicious in what is shared with the public.

    Yeah, yeah, I know, the media is getting pretty bad at being judicious. Better yet, don’t take pictures, stop and help.

  5. I feel the same way about those who drive, boat, or jet ski through flood water. I’ve seen basement windows broken out by waves, flooding the basement when, without the waves, the glass would have survived.

    On the plus side … those Disaster Tourists will pick up a lot of the nails left in the road by the tornado.

    • Wmenns, we had a guy in an airboat get arrested for destruction of property after he swept by someone’s house. It had rained for a week here and the localized flooding had gotten very serious. This guy went out and created his own tsunami. A lot of people wanted him dead.

  6. “On the plus side … those Disaster Tourists will pick up a lot of the nails left in the road by the tornado.”

    Ha ha, you’re right. A friend went to NOLA to help the clean up, and there was a guy whos gas station had been swept away. The guy set up a tent where the station had been and was making ends meet by just fixing flats.

  7. I imagine that some, though maybe one, or two will be saying that they want exclusive first hand video for Channel X News, etc.

    There was a police officer involved shooting near me earlier this week. While reading the updates to the story and getting information through channels I know, I am hearing that people have been driving by all day and into the night to take photos of the house and car (now towed away). The family who’s home the suspect broke into has been displaced and don’t want to go back. They also lost their car as the suspect tried to leave in it and was stopped by the SWAT team then shot to death.

    One source told me the family is very uncomfortable with the people driving by and the kids are too scared to go back home. The police have asked the people to stop filming and driving by, but they still do.

    As a Paramedic, I still hate to hear about people doing this. Believe me when I say, I can tell you horror stories about people filming, taking pictures, or worse…texting someone and saying their daughter has died in a wreck (small town) before the police can even do their job.

    • David, that happened to friends of mine in Thomasville Georgia several years back. A man had shot a child for getting on his lawn. There was a nonstop parade of cars going through that neighborhood afterwards that lasted for days. We sat on my friend’s front porch and wondered why they so desperately wanted to see whatever it is they were seeing.

      I still have no idea.

Comments are closed.