November 22, 2011 will mark the sixth month anniversary of the Joplin tornado. It has taken me several months to get to the point where I can write this post. I have been dealing with a lot of PTSD, as have many. I feel it necessary to make this entry to give praise to my Lord for what he has done thru this tragedy, and to pay honor to the people of Joplin. Their resilience, determination, and faith has been encouraging.
My family and I were preparing to visit friends and enjoy a nice time of food, fun, and fellowship. As we drove to their house, little did we know that the lives of everyone in the area was about to change. As many know, unless you have lived under a rock, an EF5 tornado hit the town of Joplin,Mo on May 22, 2011. The rest is history. We were about ready to sit down to eat together, when a son of our hostess called telling her of the tragedy. Tornado in Joplin! Ok. We can deal with that. In this area of the country, tornados are not a rare thing. We have several spottings a year. We were, however, not prepared for the reality of those three words. Turning on the television news, we found coverage immediately. Being a home health nurse in Joplin, I grabbed the phone and tried to contact my clients and friends. I attempted, for what seemed like hours, to get thru. The phone lines were either jammed or down because the tornado had taken out the towers.
I knew I had to go to Joplin. I had to find my clients and coworkers. As I traveled down 71Hwy, police, ambulance, and fire rescue teams, from as far away as St. Louis, passed me. My thoughts were, "Oh, my, what will I find when I get there?"
As my boss and I entered Joplin about an hour after the tornado hit, I came to a very fast understanding that this was tragic. All I could see for miles were red lights flashing...not the street lights, as they had been taken out, but red light after red light from the emergency vehicles. As we tried to get down street after street, we found that all of the landmarks, including the street signs, had been removed. We looked around us and all we could see was vast devastation. I could not comprehend what I was seeing. Places I had known for years, were leveled. The high school that stood tall and proud, was leveled. My daughter's dance studio, where she took dance for years, was also leveled. The reporters on the radio continued to tell of the injured. Stories of people walking blocks to get to their loved ones; strangers placing injured souls on doors and putting them in the backs of vans, onto trailers, or pick up truck beds just to get them help all resonated with the images I was seeing. As I stood in one spot, I turned in a complete circle. All I saw was complete destruction. There was nothing standing. All of the trees were either twisted or ripped completely out of the ground. Houses and building piled six and seven feet high. The force of the storm had picked up cars and crumpled them together where there were three and four cars in one large metal mass. "Oh Dear God", I cried out in my mind. All I could think, "There are people inside these piles." I could see men, women, and children standing on these piles, trying to dig out loved ones, or possibly beloved pets. My mind couldn't take it. My heart cried out in physical pain. "How?", "Why?"... those were the two questions I kept asking myself for days and weeks to follow.
As the days turned to weeks, and the weeks turned to months, stories of both horror and inspiration has trickled in. There are reports of children seeing angles, some called them butterflies, hovering over them. There have been reports of many pets being reunited with their owners, or being adopted out because their owners were no longer able to claim them. I saw many people from all over the country converge on the city of Joplin, just to help. One man walked to Joplin from across the country, just so he could help out. My heart was warmed at the outpouring of love to the victims. I had many friends from my past look me up and ask what they could do to help.
Now, six months later, the streets are beginning to clear, houses are going up, the Extreme Makeover Home Edition show has been here and gone, and life is beginning to reappear. Joplin will be alright. In all of this, I have learned that life it but a moment in time. We never know if we will see the next sunrise. We take our lives and loved ones for granted, expecting life to continue on like normal.
I want to take this moment to say THANK YOU ... thank you to all who has helped out with clean up, supplies, food, clothing, and other things. Your generosity does not go unnoticed. Most importantly, I want to thank my Lord, Jesus Christ for his presence in Joplin, during the storm and after.