When words fail: a reflection on the second day of the FRI

Human presence in the floodplains of southern Missouri was the sole reason the Mississippi River flooding was an issue this year.  Yet, for me, the resulting absence of any human presence produced the most moving scenes.

Be it the abandoned houses of tiny Pinhook, Mo., or the crumbling white farmhouse on Highway 102, the starkest reminders of human loss were displayed in their vacant state.

Curtains fluttered behind shattered windows, chairs lay askew on debris-littered floors, a shrivelled houseplant lay on its side; all the trappings of human civilization, all caked in the mud of the Mississippi River.

I think that’s why I envy the photographers on this trip. When I’m buried in my notebook, worried about names and dates and spellings, it’s easy to miss the power of the scenes around me.  But the photographers seem always alert to the visual, constantly scanning for the images that we try to so hard to convey in words.

I’m grateful for the two stops we made at the abandoned, flood-damaged homes.  They reminded me that our surroundings are often as big a story as our sources.

Emily Garnett, edited by Tony Schick

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