News On 6 Photographer Brings Back Record Of Joplin Destruction

Thursday, May 26th 2011, 2:22 pm
By: News On 6

Dee Duren,

JOPLIN, Missouri -- A News On 6 photographer went on a pilgrimage to document the devastation in Joplin and brought back the images.

Photojournalist Bill Aycock has covered some tough scenes since he signed on to cover overnight news for News On 6 almost a year ago, but he knew that sometimes pictures just aren't enough.

"I knew the photos and videos coming back wouldn't do it justice," he said. "I knew mine wouldn't either, but I wanted to go and see it for myself."

Aycock and a friend left Tulsa at 4 a.m. so they could arrive in the Missouri city before sunrise. It was important to him to capture shots of the sun rising over the devastation to symbolize the dawning of a new day.

"People are starting all over again," he said. "There's nothing that I could say to describe it."

The first signs of damage as the two drove east on Interstate 44 were a flooded river then a roadblock sign. As he drew closer to the tornado's path, he had to drive around downed power poles as signs of wind damage became unmistakable.

"Then you see the hospital in the distance with all the windows shattered and the blinds hanging out," he said. "And satellite trucks – I've never seen so many TV stations in one place."

Aycock said people started pouring into the neighborhoods at about 10 a.m., sorting through the rubble. He asked one man what was running through his mind as he used a chain saw to cut into the side of his house.

Bill Aycock Joplin Photos

"He said, 'You can't let it go through your head; it'll drive you crazy,'" Aycock reported.

The images that struck him most were people walking through the streets with stunned looks on their faces. Then there are the American flags hanging from all kinds of locations – walls, fences and damaged trees.

More Aycock Joplin Photos

"There was a church with a cross on top of it," he said. "Just the wall holding the cross was still there, but everything else was leveled."