Editor’s note: Katrina Tulloch is a graduate of Syracuse University with a master’s degree in magazine, newspaper and online journalism. She is working as an intern at The Roanoke Times, where she works on our site redesign team, contributes to our daily news report and produces video.
Driving down from upstate New York on I-81 was daunting enough before encountering June 29’s monster of a storm at exactly the hour it hit Roanoke. Between dodging wayward tree branches on the highway and listening to crackling radio warnings of winds up 80 mph, I braced myself for a rough move-in day and even rougher first week on the job.
The following Monday I was scheduled to start my digital news internship at The Roanoke Times, which I had been anticipating since January. But now I was coming at a time when the newsroom would be waist-deep in severe storm coverage. They probably wouldn’t let the new intern even touch a camera.
I lucked out. The Saturday after the derecho hit, I moved into a fully powered apartment and with enough time to go out and try my first sweet tea at Ernie’s. On my third day of work, I had the opportunity to co-produce a video with Ryan Loew collecting stories of Roanoke residents affected by the derecho.
Back in New York, where I did my share of man-on-the-street videos, I got used to being rebuffed if I approached anyone with a notebook or microphone. New Yorkers aren’t mean, but sometimes they won’t slow down for anything between where they are and where they’re going.
In just a couple weeks, Roanoke has stunned this born-and-bred New Yorker. This city has the kindest people I’ve ever met, anywhere. Almost everyone I approached stopped to hear me out. It was a surprising, sunny welcome. Even passers-by who visibly didn’t want to be on camera apologized (to my shock) for not being able to help. I want to say thank you to everyone who stopped, participated or just said hello. You made an intern’s week and showed me just how awesome Roanoke is.
Two memorable characters in the final video were Bob Rider and Stephanie Perdue, both of whom immediately declined an interview. Mr. Rider taught me how a small compliment goes a long way. After I told him I loved his bow tie, he chuckled, shrugged and strolled over to the camera.
Ms. Perdue felt self-conscious about her hair; she couldn’t style it that morning without power. Once I told her how that would make a great rant about the storm, she was on board. I asked her, “What do you want to say to the derecho?” She smirked, “How much tape do you have?” Man, I wish we had the camera rolling for that.
The great discovery of this project was the openness of Roanoke. When offered new perspectives or opportunities, people were willing to listen and change their minds. Roanokers are not closed off.
I hope to continue making videos to get to know Roanoke even better and I’d love to hear what kind of issues you’d like addressed. Is there an unsung hero you know who would make a perfect profile? Who or what should get the spotlight? Truly, get in touch with me! Tweet to @KatrinaTulloch or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Roanoke, I’m looking forward to seven more weeks of living with you and learning from you.