Vultures on a Carousel vs. the Tornado at Cordova Mall

Home Archived Opinion Vultures on a Carousel vs. the Tornado at Cordova Mall

By Michael Rutschky

Publish on October 24, 2007

By now this is a story that I’m tired of telling people.  However, I still like what I wrote because it is a written snapshot of a moment in time, and was more or less published as it occurred.  In my opinion this kind of accessibility is exactly what journalism has always been building towards.

 This was written last Thursday, after spending a rare extended period of time controlled by the lizard-brain, and motivated by the panic and chaos of a massive group of strangers all running from a man-eating god-cloud that was trying to gobble them up.  I wrote it nauseated and soaking wet on a bench in the middle of the mall.  The message, which I have edited a bit to make it easier to read, went as followed:

 I’m now running on pure adrenaline. About an hour ago I got to the mall to buy the snazzy fedora at Dillard’s that I’ve had my eye on for a while. As I was walking through the store showing off my new hat I received an e-mail edition of the Corsair on my phone. Eager to get the full story on why an e-mail edition was sent out without a corresponding issue, I called Josh Encinias. As I was leaving Dillards and entering the mall proper, Josh told me about a tornado in the area. I started seeing the mall’s power go out and decided to call my girlfriend to make sure she would be safe, since she works outdoors as a car hop at Sonic.

 Just then I felt a cold, heavy wind blowing inside the mall. I had no idea what was happening, but people were crying and running in the opposite direction of where I was walking to [Note: I could be wrong, but I seem to remember that my initial moment of shock  had followed a violent noise that happened further up the hall from me, where the people were running from]. I followed the flood of people back towards Dillard’s where a security officer that just looked outside started running through the mall, telling everyone to take cover, that there was a tornado on the ground outside.

 I attempted to find shelter in the arcade across from Dillard’s, and called my girlfriend to urge that she and all of the workers and patrons of Sonic take cover in the store’s freezers, which are secured to the foundation of the building.  I then left the arcade and ran by the cell phone skin shop across from the food court, and they invited me into their back room for safe haven. A few other people and I hung out back there until it cleared up. I must have looked quite foolish freaking out about a tornado in front of all these native Pensacolians (Connecticut, where I’m from, doesn’t get them). I stayed in the store for a while, confirming that everything was sound with all of my loved ones around town.

 Now I’m sitting on a bench inside the mall, typing this out on my sidekick. I started to take pictures of the few skylights that were punched out, but the Simon workers made me stop. Everything seems to be back to normal, and I’m watching an old man getting a skin exfoliation demonstration. I’m kind of paralyzed at the moment, but it’ll pass.

 This went online shortly after I wrote it, which is pretty cool, even if it is a pretty played out story by now.  I also have found the following text message in my phone’s draft folder, which I wasn’t able to send because cell phone lines were tied up at the time:

 [To Josh Encinias:] Tornado just hit mall.  I’m f—— running on pure adrenaline.  Now stuffed into storage room of cell phone store.  Someone call me, I want this on the site somehow.

 That just makes me laugh.  Well, I’ve been able to do some pretty interesting things by combining Vultures on a Carousel with this kind of real-time journalism, creating a style which I have decided to call “mobile gonzo” journalism.  In my next few columns I’ll be using this technique to take Vultures on location to the nation’s capital, as well as the nation’s capital of decadence.  For a sneak peek, head over to

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