As soon as I started seeing the status updates on Facebook about the May 22nd tornado that wiped out almost 13 miles (give or take) of JoMo, all I could think about was what I could possibly do to help.
I've lived in Oklahoma all my life. We are "Tornado Alley". I have never been scared of a tornado as much as I have been recently. I never really took cover or got prepared. But the one that hit Tuscaloosa, AL helped to assure me that being frightened of a horrible force of nature is a reasonable fear. The one that hit Joplin, which is only 1 hour and 45 minutes away, made me realize that I needed to do whatever possible to protect my kids.
So many lives were lost (I think the last update I saw, the death toll is 141 deaths). So many homes and businesses were destroyed. Seeing the pictures on the news is NOTHING compared to seeing the devastation in real life.
Last Thursday, June 2nd, I took a vacation day and went to Joplin with Rhema Bible Church. Some friends of mine (the Hall's) go to church there and told me that they were going there to volunteer. I invited myself to tag along. I didn't care what they were going to have me do, I just knew I wanted to help in any way that I was needed. We worked with a group called Service International. We were given work gloves, bottled water, rakes, shovels, and wheelbarrows. And we were taken to 20th street. I was told that we were at the "end" of where the tornado hit. All I know (direction wise) is that we were at the opposite end from the hospital. We helped clean up 3 different houses. Our job was to clean up debris, wood, and metal. We sorted them into 3 different piles. The owners were allowed to burn the piles. We were not. We were finding clothes, toys, cds/dvds, etc. How do you go thru someone else's items and decide if it is considered trash? We didn't even know if what we were finding belonged to the owners. Any pictures or things that looked valuable were placed in boxes and I was told they would be taken to a church with other lost and found items. What we saw was overwhelming. I felt good about being in JpMo so I could help. But I also felt so sad. And I felt like I wasn't doing anything at all.
On the way home our bus driver took us thru the hardest hit areas. Where the Home Depot, Academy, Joplin High School, etc were located. And it was pure destruction. Trying to imagine the homes/buildings/people that were once there was impossible. I can't even imagine what the people of Jolpin went thru that Sunday night when the tornado destroyed their town. But I do have high hopes, and many prayers, that Joplin can rebuild.
I am hoping that I will get to go to Jolpin again very soon. Church on the Move and the Church at Battle Creek are both planning trips down there.
Here are some pictures I took while on the bus. I did feel bad about taking pictures, but we were on the bus. We worked from about 10am until 5pm.