The Media Today

The media today: Telling the stories of Harvey’s human cost

September 1, 2017

The worst of the storm may be over, but the full impact of Harvey’s human cost is still unknown. As rescue operations continue and journalists work to document the scope of the disaster, the doleful task of identifying the dead, and telling their stories, has begun.

Alexander Sung, a 64-year-old clockmaker raced around his Houston store, trying to secure his most valuable timepieces. He texted his daughter, a college student, to make sure she was okay, and promised to call soon. That call never came.

Sgt. Steve Perez, a 34-year veteran of the Houston Police Department, spent hours trying to get to work through flooded streets. Driving into an underpass, he died after his car was trapped in deep waters. Police Chief Art Acevedo called Perez “a sweet, gentle public servant.

Colette Sulcer, a nurse, left her car in an attempt to escape flooding in Beaumont, Texas. She and her 3-year-old daughter, Jordyn, were swept into a canal, and floated about half a mile, according to Beaumont police. A rescue team in a Zodiac boat spotted Jordyn’s pink backpack as she clung to her mother, and managed to rescue the child. For her mother, it was too late.

Coverage of Harvey necessarily touches on topics ranging from economic impact to urban planning to political action. In the midst of the frenzy, reporters across eastern Texas are working to ensure that those who died in the disaster have their stories told. Below, more on those efforts.

  • “An Animal Lover, a Coach, a Police Officer”: The New York Times’s Julie Bosman provides details on the lives of some who perished in the storm.
  • Crisis during attempted rescue: After a boat full of rescuers and journalists struck downed power lines, two are dead, two others are missing, and three more—including two Daily Mail journalists—are recovering in a hospital.
  • “A quieter affair”: The Los Angeles Times’s Molly Hennessy-Fiske reports on the “sorrowful task” of identifying the dead as the waters recede.
  • A shattered family: One of the most harrowing stories of Harvey’s early impact was that of a van, carrying seven members of the Saldivar family, swept away by rushing waters. The driver managed to escape, but the other six were feared lost. After officials confirmed the family’s worst fears, a team of Washington Post reporters worked to tell the story of generations of Saldivars.


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Pete Vernon is a former CJR staff writer. Follow him on Twitter @ByPeteVernon.