On May 22nd, 2011 an EF5 tornado destroyed one third of the town in which I live. Although my home was not touched in this tornado, it is still devastating. As I drive though the parts of the town that were affected, it is difficult to determine exactly where I am. There are some parts of town where you can see for miles, when at one time you saw a park or churches or homes or trees.
Now when I look around my town I see heaps of metal and wood…the remains of someone’s life. Today I took a drive and saw someone’s wardrobe still hanging perfectly in their closet but that closet is the only section of their home still remaining. I saw cars that were wadded up by the high winds of the tornado and tossed away like a discarded piece of paper.
On almost every street corner of the major intersections there are either temporary insurance agencies or church groups preparing grilled hot dogs and hamburgers for the displaced and the volunteers.
Those churches and volunteers come from all over our country. I have seen Illinois, Indiana, Wyoming, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Georgia and California tags. If I could hunt down every single person that is here to help this town and hug and thank them it would never be enough to express the gratitude I feel. People that just give up their lives and hop in a car to come to a town and assist strangers. It has restored my faith in mankind tenfold. Thank you and God bless you.
The route I drive every day to get to work has pretty much all been destroyed. I look at what remains of my favorite Wal-greens store or the Sonic I would run to for lunch occasionally or worst of all the pizza place that has been in this town since I was a child. Then I think for just a second about exactly what has happened here and I cannot help but to cry. It has become a joke here that crying and driving is just as dangerous as texting and driving. They are right.
Everyone here knows someone that has been affected by the tornado. They have either lost their home, or the place they work or someone they loved and in some cases all three of those things. It is hard being one of the few whose home and work are still standing and I am still surrounded by those I love. It is almost a feeling of guilt. Why them and not me? I spent hours in bed at night trying to process it all. I have finally realized there really are no answers. The tornado picked its victims. It was extremely random. You can go down a block where every single house but one has been completely leveled. You cannot logically explain a tornado and its path of destruction.
I went out one evening with a few Rubbermaid tubs, bug spray and sunscreen. Every item was distributed within a two-block area. One couple even offered me a cold bottle of water. No one would take more than two tubs…as if they are thinking in the back of their mind someone might need these more than I do. This town is filled with amazing people and it becomes more evident to me each and every day since this tragedy occurred.
I know why Joplin was hit by this tornado. We were hit because we can handle it. We can beat this. We can begin again, move on and live our lives just like everyone else. Live our lives for the ones that did not make it out of the tornado. Show them each and every day that we as a town can re-build and grow stronger in their honor. It won’t be easy and it won’t happen quickly but this town can do it.
Our situation often makes me think of this Bible verse… “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tested beyond your strength but with your testing he will also provide the way out so that you may be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). We are strong, we will endure and we will find the way out of this.