Stories I’ve Been Waiting to Tell
Ivy Smith Guiler
Ivy Smith Guiler

The sound from gently plucked harp strings echoed off the mountains surrounding a West Virginia military base, as Glenda Shelby Perkins slowly walked through a path of brightly colored rose petals. Her eyes were locked on the man standing at the makeshift altar.

The eyes of all in attendance were locked on her.

She smiled as she passed by the casually dressed guests wearing identification tags and Red Cross vests.

This was the wedding of Glenda Perkins and Greg Avery of New Orleans, La., and my first glimpse into the world of hurricane survivors at Camp Dawson, in Preston County. It was also the exact moment I realized just how important these stories were.

Since that day I’ve met many hurricane evacuees, all with their own special tale of survival.

Loi Lam, a Vietnamese man who has worked for years on a shrimp boat to send money home to his wife and son, fought off the gangs in the Superdome so children could have food.

Greg Avery and his best friend, Allen “Sarge” Smith, waded through waist-high water to save the elderly in their neighborhood.

And Raynell Goff, who spent five days in the Superdome, had to wash cars at Camp Dawson to make himself tired enough to fall asleep so he wouldn’t lie awake and think about the images of dead bodies burned into his brain.

These are the types of stories I’ve been waiting to tell since the first time I stepped into a newsroom six years ago. This is why I became a journalist.

When I was asked to be an organizer on this project, I jumped at the opportunity. One thing I’ve learned here at the P.I. Reed School of Journalism is that the face of journalism is changing. This project is at the forefront of that change.

By using the Internet as a backdrop, students are given unlimited storytelling options. For the first time at the school of journalism, every element of news coverage will work together – print, video, still photography, audio and the Internet.

There are many ways to tell a story. This project has reinforced that. I can’t imagine a better way to tell the tales of these hurricane survivors.