Why Do We Share Disaster Survivor Stories?

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Tornado survivor Martha Hall, 65, had no time to escape her house in West Liberty, Kentucky, on March 2, 2012. "We heard the roaring," says Hall. "It kept going and going and never stopped."

“…the brain prioritizes stories over statistics, and the more personalized the stories, the more powerful the imprint,” writes TIME contributor Amanda Ripley in her introduction to the magazine’s current special issue Time: Disasters that Shook the World. “…there is great practical value in telling stories, particularly when they are told with useful lessons attached.”

The TIME special issue marks the 100th anniversary of the RMS Titanic sinking on April 15, 1912. New research continues to teach us more about how the accident happened and why many died. Much of what we know—and what moves us emotionally to take action—comes from disaster survivor stories.

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In this corner, covered with a mattress and blankets, Martha Hall and her brother survived the the tornado. "It went BOOM," says Hall. "We could feel the house move."

The Red Cross knows this. We provide essential disaster relief to the most vulnerable among us. During relief response, we have the privilege of serving as listeners while people talk to us about remarkable acts of courage, strength, and resilience. We share their stories because personal accounts inspire you to give money for disaster relief, to take steps for being prepared for emergencies, and to become a Red Cross volunteer who makes disaster relief happen.

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Red Cross disaster relief worker Anita Foster hugs Martha Hall, who was recovering personal items from her home destroyed by the March 2 tornado in West Liberty, Kentucky.

During this time of remembering the Titanic, we encourage you to continue to learn about people affected by disasters here and around the world. Additional ready resources include redcross.org, ifrc.org, and icrc.org.

Post and images by Lynette Nyman, American Red Cross. Amanda Ripley is the author of The Unthinkable: Who Survives When Disaster Strikes–and Why.

Author: American Red Cross

The American Red Cross provides relief to victims of disasters and helps people prevent, prepare for and respond to emergencies. The Minnesota Region serves 5.2 million people across Minnesota and part of western Wisconsin.

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