VOLUME 21 #4

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Survivors tell their stories in tornado's wake

RESEARCH | Six graduate students from the University’s Disaster Research Center—the world’s oldest center devoted to the study of the social science of disasters—deployed to tornado-stricken Oklahoma last spring, conducting fieldwork and collecting a wealth of data and some profound stories.

Two students, Danielle Nagele and Lucia Velotti, arrived about a week after the first tornado struck and, as a team, traveled along the tornado’s path to study the human reaction to the devastation. They conducted interviews with residents, hoping to learn how those affected had received information about the tornado. Along the way, they say, they also witnessed an impressive amount of hope, strength and community.

Some of the center’s most important findings over the past five decades resulted from quick work by graduate students, says Tricia Wachtendorf, associate professor of sociology and associate director of the center.

“Many times, it is important to get into the field quickly to collect what we call ‘perishable data,’” she says, including such things as documents that might not be available even a few weeks later and names of people involved in recovery efforts who might leave the area before researchers can conduct in-depth interviews.

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