Saturday, June 25, 2011

Joplin, MO

On May 22, 2011, the town of Joplin, Missouri was hit by a tornado 1 mile wide, 10 miles long. To date, one hundred fifty deaths have been reported.

Today, we drove an hour north, into Missouri, to feel the unbelievable loss the residents of Joplin have experienced. We were also hoping to find a way to be of help to someone, anyone. I must say, writing what we saw doesn't do justice to what the people must have endured that evening.

When we first arrived in Joplin, everything seemed rather calm. We took a right off the highway, traveling east. As we drove along we noticed some fallen trees, a wobbly fence, and pieces of buildings hanging loose. Don't get me wrong, the damage looked daunting; yet, we knew (from news reports) that the damage was even more severe. We decided to loop around and travel west. In the far distance we could see tree trunks, no branches; buildings with upper floors missing, and over-turned cars. As we got closer, the devastation looked worse. Joplin was literally ripped to shreds. I must say, though, in the middle of it all the people seemed very serene. They were working, cleaning up the mess, one piece at a time. The town had come together to help rebuild a place they call home. Volunteers were everywhere, helping, without expecting anything in return.

We continued our drive until we came to, what looked like, an apartment complex. Here, we got out of the truck to feel the 'mess' under our feet. Shoes, clothes, and other personal items were scattered everywhere, along with debris that had fallen off the buildings. Cars still containing the owners things were smashed; some into each other. Interestingly, the playground stood tall, as if was saying "You can't hurt me; I will survive!" As we were getting ready to leave we met a young woman who had returned to her apartment to retrieve her belongings. We offered to help and found ourselves walking up the tornado blown stairs, walking into her whirlwind of an apartment. She told us that when residents left the area, looters invaded their homes, stealing anything worth their while, including her laptop. She said she survived by climbing into her bathtub and just waiting for the tornado to leave. She said she remembered hearing the warning sound but ignored it because she had heard it before, many times. When the second siren sounded she knew she had to protect herself but didn't realize the magnitude of damage she would soon encounter. She is thankful to be alive. We wished her good tidings before carrying some of her items down to her car.

As we were leaving, Brad stepped on a nail so we had to find a clinic to examine the injury. Due to the fact so many people have continuously been injured in the same way, the clinic (as well as all the other places we checked) had run out of tetanus shots. We were given the choice to give Brad a not-approved-yet shot - with many side effects, or just to keep an eye on his foot. We are watching it round-the-clock, and very carefully!

On the way home, we stopped to buy some things needed at home, including a belt for Rudy. When we were putting everything away and discovered the belt had not been bagged, Rudy became angry, his voice raising a decibel or two. "Think about Joplin." I calmly told him. "Think about Joplin." He kissed me, smiled and calmly said, "I love you."

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