April 19, 2024

Bucks: What Would You Take With You in a Disaster?

I listened on Monday as survivors of the devastating tornado in Joplin, Mo., were interviewed on the radio while they sifted through the wreckage of their homes. One woman choked up as she described calling area nursing homes, seeking a parent with Alzheimer’s. Another wearily explained that she was looking for clothes, any clothes — a T-shirt would do.

A T-shirt seems such a mundane item, but it struck me that it is the basics — rather than jewelry or other valuables — that we want and need after a disaster. But others have different ideas about what they’d take if they had to flee, which is made clear on the Burning House, a Web-based project that posts a series of photos that people have taken in response to the question, “If your house were burning, what would you take with you?” The site notes: “It’s a conflict between what’s practical, valuable and sentimental. What you would take reflects your interests, background and priorities.”

The images are fascinating. Some are artsy, photographic still-lifes of practical items (wallets, car keys). One couple’s assemblage includes their 10-month-old baby (well, duh!). But others are far less obvious: a World War II bayonet bequeathed by an uncle, a copy of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album.

Whether it’s a burning house, a tornado bearing down on your town or a tsunami, you often don’t have time do anything but duck for cover or run for your life. But it’s a provocative question, especially given the onslaught of natural disasters this year. (Joplin is less than two hours from where I live, and we’ve had numerous tornado and flood warnings this spring in our area, too.)

The McMillans of Minneapolis documented their prized possessions for the Web site The Burning House.the-burning-house.comThe McMillans of Minneapolis documented their prized possessions for the Web site the Burning House.

So it got me thinking. What would I take? My children have been wondering the same thing; my husband and I have told them that they are the most precious things to us, and that as long as we get out with them, everything else is just stuff that can be replaced (assuming you have decent insurance, which we do). Each of them has a toy animal (one a frog, the other an owl) that they’ve had since babyhood, so I’d grab them, too. Other than that, there’s a few treasured photo albums, a wedding portrait of my mother and a special book (signed by Tom Wolfe, during a memorably fun reporting assignment) that I’d take if I had a few extra minutes. That’s about it.

What would you take? Take a look at some of the photos on the Burning House and create your own list — and let us know.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=eef6c2bd0de05246a4bd99ff2f78316d

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