Ella Borders

Ella V. Borders, 94, talks Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, about the tornado that swept through her home near Social Circle the night before.

I was on the phone on Aug. 1 when it started to buzz.

“This says we’re under a tornado warning!” I said.

Surely that couldn’t be right, I thought. But I hung up and checked, and sure enough, we were — northwestern Morgan, northeastern Newton and eastern Walton counties. The warning even surprised some of the Atlanta television stations, which couldn’t get it on the air with a meteorologist to explain what was happening.

It was a timely warning, too. An EF1 tornado struck eight minutes later, at 7:32 p.m. in the 1400 block of Social Circle-Fairplay Road.

That’s where 94-year-old Ella V. Borders lived. I met Ms. Borders the next day as I surveyed the damage.

Although she’d been through quite an ordeal — trust me, tornadoes are not fun — she was a delight.

“All of a sudden the wind started blowing and all of a sudden here comes everything at one time, boom boom.

“It happened quick and fast, and when we knew anything, the storm was over — quick, quick, real quick.”

I recorded Ms. Borders comments in a video, and posted a screen shot of that on the front page of the next issue of The Tribune, disappointed it didn’t convey the delight I had in talking to Ms. Borders.

I didn’t think much more about it until receiving the results of the Georgia Press Association Better Newspaper Contest. As part of the tally that led to The Tribune earning first place in General Excellence, the photo was deemed the best spot news photo for papers our size in the state last year.

“Surprised” is an understatement.

I liked what the judge had to say: “Great image that captures the scene and humanity.”

Capturing moments of loss is never easy. I’ve been there when a tornado sweeps in and the next day, everything is a blur as the sheer magnitude of what has happened, and what comes next, hits.

But Ms. Borders’ cheery personality was a light in the darkness. This photo wasn’t about the person taking it, but about the subject. This award is for her.

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