Battle Of Harrowing News Videos: ‘Tornado School Bus’ Vs.’Family Wildfire Escape’


For the past couple of days, CNN has been running two of the most gripping “you are there” news videos you’re likely to see for awhile. Yesterday, it was a clip of the Gulick family’s escape from a fiery hellscape in Colorado, captured by their 13 year-old Kaleb Gulick‘s cellphone camera. Today, surveillance footage from inside a Henryville, Indiana school bus shows the devastating effects of a tornado that ripped the bus apart, throwing it across the street into a diner, minutes after cool-headed bus driver Angel Perry got all of the kids to safety. Spoiler alert: everybody lives, which makes these clips much easier to enjoy. There’s no poor sap like the stepfather in 2012 who has to die so that John Cusack and Amanda Peet can repopulate the Earth together. Remember Gordon!

But both of these videos could easily fit into a blockbuster disaster film. In the first one, Doug Gulick and his kids are fleeing their home, with mom Kim Olson ahead of them in another car, after a “controlled burn” of Colorado underbrush goes horribly wrong. The wall of flame, the smoke that completely blots out the daylight, and the glowing embers that keep floating past the camera evoke a terror that is only punctuated by daughter Rhoanabella’s comically exasperated cry of “Where’s mom?! What’s she stopping for?!”

It turns out she was looking for her headlights to see if a tree was blocking the road, and trying to decide whether to turn back or not. They continued through the smoke and embers, and escaped unharmed.

In the second clip, Henryville, Indiana school bus driver Angel Perry is driving away from the school when she sees an F4 tornado touching down about a mile ahead. She decides to go back to the school, and quickly evacuates the kids into the school. Minutes later, the video shows an inside view of the tornado ripping through the bus and throwing it across the street.

Really, the only way to top either of these would be to have the Gulick children and the kids from that school bus participate in a duel to the death for food.

At the risk of sounding like an old man, there didn’t used to be things like this on the news. If it made the news, the Gulick’s story would have been accompanied by some grainy stock footage of a forest fire, and maybe a file photo of a station wagon. The availability and durability of modern video equipment has completely changed the way news is reported, and what news is reported.

For my money, the fire clip has the edge in production values and visual terror. You can practically feel the heat from those floating embers. However, the school bus driver has the edge in narrative tension, as she decides whether to play chicken with the funnel cloud, or head back to the school.

Which clip made your knuckles the whitest, and your drawers the brownest? Let us know in the comments.

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