Hitting close to home

Reliving painful times can produce a sense of pride.

Consider the highly acclaimed documentary, “The Dust Bowl,” which aired on KACV-TV on Nov. 18-19. It was directed by famed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns and it tells a story that thousands of our region’s residents know all too well. The four-hour documentary dissects the greatest manmade ecological disaster in U.S. history. It killed children and old people, not to mention thousands of head of livestock. The drought-driven dust buried livelihoods. The film tells, in excruciating detail — through the words of those who lived through it — of the nearly decade-long tragedy that visited the High Plains.

I’ve been struck in recent days by the many comments I’ve heard from fellow Amarillo residents about the closeness they feel to the events documented in the film. “The film hits so close to home,” many have said — in so many words.

And to think that Ken Burns, of all people, would want to tell the story of what happened right here to the rest of the world.

Burns’ award-winning filmography is impressive, dating back to the early 1980s. He’s put together films chronicling the life and times of legendary Louisiana Gov. and Sen. Huey Long (in 1985), on the Civil War (1990), Thomas Jefferson (1997), Lewis and Clark (1997), Mark Twain (2001), former heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson (2005) and World War II (2007). That’s just a partial list.

Burns’ subjects comprise an eclectic and interesting blend of topics, issues and personalities.

But with the Dust Bowl film, Burns brings it home — here, to the Panhandle and to the rest of the High Plains.

This is just a hunch, but I’ll bet “The Dust Bowl” is going to resonate throughout this part of the world for a very long time.

And if you can’t get enough of the film, look at it online at kacv.org. I’ve watched it three times already. It’s worth seeing again and again.

Indeed, revisiting the stories of courage and heroism displayed by those who lived through that horror makes me proud to call the Panhandle home.


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