As a reporter, whenever a government agency tries to restrict my access to a public place, my first instinct is to want to go there.
After tornadoes damaged several Oklahoma City neighborhoods on Monday, police restricted access to four neighborhoods: Heritage Estates, Deerfield Estates, Deerfield West and Liberty Creek.
As I drove around looking for stories on Tuesday to give to readers, I took a left turn onto a residential street and unbeknown until later to me and the photographer we wound up in Deerfield Estates.
We found tremendous destruction, people picking up the pieces, neighbors helping neighbors, friends lending hands and support. What we also found was several people who wanted and maybe even needed to tell their stories of survival. These were hopeful stories that a community healing from such devastation needs to hear. They are stories that we would not have been able to give readers if we hadn’t accidentally stumbled into the restricted area.
I left the neighborhood wondering why the media’s access was being completely shut out. I can understand the need to have proper controls to make sure clean up efforts are not hindered and streets clogged with television crews.
But I wish law enforcement would work with us and not immediately shut us out of such situations. There must be some middle ground between allowing recovery to occur without hindrance and completely shutting the public out and not allowing those doing to recovery to tell their stories.
-Michael Baker, 475-3384