natural disasters, narrative, crisis communication, oral histories, tornadoes, renewal


This study was a year-long longitudinal qualitative research project using the case study of Mayfield, KY after the catastrophic tornado event that impacted their community on December 10, 2021. Oral histories were collected from 18 participants who lived in or were closely connected to Mayfield at the six month and 1.5 year marks after the disaster. Later, after the oral histories were archived and made available to the public, the transcripts were used to extract the crisis narratives from the oral histories and the data was thematically analyzed using the existing theory and theoretical framework of Narratives of Crisis: Telling Stories of Ruin and Renewal by Seeger and Sellnow (2016). The themes were analyzed to better understand how crisis narratives change over time and to determine if there were differences between the leadership of Mayfield and their stakeholders, the public. A major finding in this area was the intertwining of one of more themes within the same passage of narrative, including the intertwining of traditionally competing themes. This extends the theory of Narratives of Crisis. The Discourse of Renewal by Ulmer and Sellnow (2002) was also used to analyze how narratives may differ between those in the community who are considered leaders, and those who represent a general cross-section of the community. The major finding in this analysis was the lack of up-to-date information between leaders and the public. By not creating a bridge of communication, many of the successful steps taken by leaders may not have reached their intended audience. One of the components of the Discourse of Renewal, organizational learning, was specifically used to find lessons learned discussed by community leaders in Mayfield, and to explore how these learned lessons can be applied for practitioners to better understand disaster recovery and renewal in the future.

Completion Date




Committee Chair

Sellnow, Timothy


Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


College of Sciences


Nicholson School of Communication and Media

Degree Program

Strategic Communication








Release Date

December 2023

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Doctoral Dissertation (Open Access)

Campus Location

UCF Downtown

Included in

Communication Commons